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Pulitzer Center Update February 26, 2024

Webinar On-Demand: Two Years Later: Sustaining Critical Coverage of Russia’s War on Ukraine

Ukraine refugees flee to Hungary

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“I think at this point, two years into the war, when there is a little bit of fatigue—because news has to be new and it's not new anymore—you have to start looking for deeper angles and for ways to meet your viewership, rather than being angry at the viewership for not wanting to know more about the story,” grantee Simon Ostrovsky said. “We as journalists have to find ways of bringing the story to the viewership and meeting them where they're at.” 

Ostrovsky joined David Kortava and Kristina Zeleniuk for a virtual conversation about continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine. February 24, 2024, marked two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Pulitzer Center Senior Editor Tom Hundley moderated the discussion about Russia’s strength, Putin’s grasp on power, Western aid and sanctions, and how best to reach audiences as the fighting continues. 

“The main topic in Ukraine for many many months is Western military aid and help that stopped,” Zeleniuk, with TSN in Ukraine, said. “Right now in the Western media, we don't see enough coverage of the real situation on the ground in Ukraine on the front line. 

“Without Western military aid, it's rather complicated to fight against the Russian Federation because their mobilization capacity is much higher than Ukraine's […] But yes, we're still standing.” 

Zeleniuk shared that recent surveying shows the vast majority of Ukrainians do not support settlement on the current front line. Therefore, she sees a strong need for her work to target Western audiences, whose countries determine sanctions and aid. 

As an aid package including a $60 billion allocation for Ukraine stalls in the United States Congress, panelists discussed the global role of NATO and the effectiveness of its response over the past two years. 

“From the Russian perspective, they see this grouping of disjointed democracies who aren't always on the same page about things as being a weakness,” Ostrovsky said. “You can also look at it as a strength, because there are so many actors involved that when some of them are failing, others are actually stepping up and then giving the assistance to Ukraine that it needs. That's not to say that, obviously, in the long run, if the United States doesn't get its act together that's going to be a huge huge problem for Ukraine, and for all of us consequently.” 

The impact of NATO’s response extends beyond Ukraine, troubled by inflammatory remarks from Donald Trump and democratic erosion around the world. 

“A threat to Ukraine is not only a threat to Europe, but to the rules-based international order such as it is,” Kortava said. “And I'm persuaded by the experts […] who argue that not meeting our moral obligations to our allies sends a message not only to Putin, but to this axis of autocracy—to China to North Korea to Iran—that the U.S. is not a reliable ally. And I think that's very dangerous for everyone, including the United States.” 

As panelists reflected on Russia’s choke on civil society, they discussed dissent within electoral processes in the country, religious oppression, the absence of journalism and key writings from dissidents, and propagandistic messaging from the Kremlin. The country displayed its strength most recently in the vanquishing of political opposition led by the late Alexei Navalny. Panelists raised that this projection of control might actually imply a weakened Putin regime. 

“It really is, at times, impossible to imagine a different Russia,” Kortava said. “But Russia is a country that has historically looked like nothing was going to change, and overnight it does. So, we need to discern and take some solace in these glimmers of hope […] despite this seemingly impossible task of bringing about a different kind of Russia. It's a challenge, but, as Navalny said, ‘You can't give up hope.’ What is the alternative? To just accept Putin's Russia as a historical absolute that's never going to change?”


In the Russian camps, Ukrainian civilians are being sequestered—sometimes indefinitely.

Explosions in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 24, 2022


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War and Conflict