On November 18, 2022, the Pulitzer Center held a webinar discussion featuring Roman Anin, founder of the independent Russian outlet IStories, and Anna Babinets, editor-in-chief of Ukrainian investigative newsroom Slidstvo.info.
Anin and Babinets spoke with Pulitzer Center Executive Editor Marina Walker Guevara about how they manage their newsrooms at the forefront of investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
When rumors about a Russian invasion began in January 2022, Babinets’ team chose to stay in Kyiv, where they prepared themselves with helmets, vests, and generators. The threat of evacuation made Slidstvo.info shift the scope of its journalism. They shifted focus from exposing corruption to identifying Russian soldiers from social networks, a job they could do remotely. Now, Slidstvo.info conducts full investigations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Staff members work with Ukrainian communities affected by the war to gather evidence of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers and find those responsible.
Anin started IStories in 2019 to give new generations of Russians a space to pursue investigative journalism. During its ongoing investigations of crime and corruption, Anin said IStories was named a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities in 2021, and after the start of the war, it was determined to be “undesirable media,” an offense punishable by a prison sentence. Anin and his fellow journalists now run IStories from outside Russia. The outlet continues to reach Russian audiences through popular platforms that remain unblocked in the country: Telegram and YouTube.
Anin told the Pulitzer Center that he receives testimonials from Russians saying that IStories helped change the minds of their friends and families about the war. Anin said he believes that his team was right to continue sharing stories about the war from exile.
Anin and Babinets wrapped up the seminar by offering their insights on how to help their organizations continue investigative journalism about the war in Ukraine. They stressed the importance of sharing stories. Babinets said Slidstvo.info shares many “human stories,” and that it is not difficult to understand what is happening in Ukraine. Anin encouraged the audience to “donate and share, share and donate."