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One year of the Kyiv Independent: Stories we’re proud of

by The Kyiv Independent news desk November 11, 2022 9:54 PM 8 min read
A family of three stands in front of a destroyed building in Borodianka, Kyiv Oblast on May 16, 2022. (Getty Images)
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Nov. 11, 2022 marks one year of the Kyiv Independent. In our first year, we have become the voice of Ukraine as it fights for its existence.

Here is a selection of some of the stories we are proud of. Our work has been possible thanks to the support of our readers. (Here’s how to support us.)

Illia Ponomarenko: Even if Russia attacks, Ukraine’s fall is not predestined

Illia Ponomarenko

Feb. 15

In this historic op-ed, our defense reporter Illia Ponomarenko predicted something that not many believed in at the time: that Ukraine could successfully fight off a full-scale Russian invasion.

Editorial: Sanction Russia now

The Kyiv Independent

Feb. 22

It was one day after Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s claim on Ukraine’s eastern territories, making it clear that the invasion was to begin. Two days later, it did. In between these events, we ran an editorial calling upon the world to sanction Russia and support Ukraine. After the start of the full-scale invasion, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen quoted our editorial at the European Parliament meeting: “This is not just about Ukraine. It’s a clash of two worlds, two polar sets of values.”

It was the first time our work had been recognized in such a way. It served as encouragement in those earliest, darkest days of the war.


The Kyiv Independent

Feb. 24, 4:57 a.m. Kyiv time

This was a short news piece that we published just when the first missiles were hitting Ukrainian cities.

This headline signified the start of a nightmare, but it’s also a source of pride for us. While the best international media ran headlines like “Russia starts a special military operation in Ukraine” or “Putin authorized a special military operation” we called it what it was: a declaration of war. (More about it in our editorial here.)

EXCLUSIVE: Voice message reveals Russian military unit's catastrophic losses in Ukraine

Illia Ponomarenko

March 2

Today we know that Russia is paying a high price for its senseless invasion of Ukraine – at least 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, according to the U.S. But in those first days, we knew nearly nothing about the losses – and the Kyiv Independent was among the first ones to break that silence.

Back then, we obtained a voice message from a group chat used by citizens of a Russian town 3,500 kilometers east of Kyiv, home to one of the Russian brigades fighting in Ukraine. The message, by one of the devastated locals, revealed that the brigade had been “completely destroyed.”

Russian soldiers murder volunteers helping starving animals near Kyiv

Anna Myroniuk

March 8

When the town of Bucha near Kyiv was liberated in early April, the world learned that Russian soldiers had run a campaign of rape and murder in the city during their month-long occupation.

But even before the town was liberated, the information about Russians targeting and murdering civilians in Bucha had surfaced. This story looks at one of the earliest known examples of the Russian massacre in Bucha.

A father puts his hand on a train window as he says goodbye to his daughter at the central train station in Odesa on March 7, 2022. (Getty Images)

Is Putin going to launch a nuclear war?

Oleg Sukhov

March 18

As the full-scale Russian invasion stalled after the Kremlin failed to sack Kyiv in mid-March, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin began to use his country’s nuclear arsenal as blackmail. In this piece, Oleg Sukhov analyzes the possibility of Russia launching an all-out nuclear war.

Eight months later, the possibility of Russia using nuclear arms is still there, and the piece by Oleg Sukhov is once again relevant. (Here’s a follow-up on the nuclear topic from October).

Voices of besieged Mariupol: 'It’s not even comparable to hell'

Anastasiia Lapatina

April 9

This piece is a grim yet necessary illustration of the suffering of people in Mariupol, once a large industrial city that has become a synonym for Russian brutality. We ran it during the ongoing siege of Mariupol, which ended with the fall of Azovstal, a local steel plant and the last Ukrainian stronghold, in May.

Mariupol evacuees: ‘People just dying, city in chaos’

Asami Terajima

May 16

One month later, we revisited the story of the besieged Mariupol and spoke with the people who managed to flee the city. Their accounts of Russia’s brutality is crucial evidence of war crimes being committed in Ukraine.

100 days of Russia’s war: What our staff learned about their country, the world, and themselves

The Kyiv Independent

June 3

This deeply personal, reflective piece is a collection of mini-essays by our staff. In it, they shared their feelings about reporting on the war while living through it.

Portrait of the invader: Understanding the Russian soldier

Igor Kossov

June 7

Russian troops occupied Ukrainian towns and villages, tortured, killed and raped civilians. Western media have often wrote that it was Putin’s war against Ukraine. Journalist Igor Kossov traveled the country, gathering testimonies of civilians and proving the most important point –that it is ordinary Russians who committed the most brutal war crimes. Take a close look at who those Russians are.

Destroyed houses stand surrounded by rubble on Nakhimova Avenue on March 16, 2022, in Mariupol, a city in Donetsk Oblast that was severely damaged by Russian bombardment. Oksana Kuzmenko, the woman who took this photo, was killed by Russia's invasion. (Oksana Kuzmenko)

Serhiy Zhadan: ‘If Russia wins, there will be no literature, no culture, nothing’

By Alexander Query

June 10

For Serhiy Zhadan, one of Ukraine’s most prominent poets and writers, a Russian victory means nothing less than the eradication of Ukraine’s cultural identity.

With this exclusive interview of Zhadan, Alexander Query draws a portrait of the writer’s hometown Kharkiv and the long history of Ukraine’s cultural resistance through one of its staunchest defenders. It's also a testimony to Ukrainian writers who play their part in the fight against Russia.

Why is Russia so vulnerable to HIMARS in Ukraine?

By Illia Ponomarenko

July 22

After spending months on the defensive, Ukraine began to slowly turn the tide in mid-June. Ukraine’s increasing success began shortly after the West provided Ukraine with critical artillery, such as HIMARS.

In this piece, Illia Ponomarenko, explains why HIMARS’ became pivotal to Ukraine’s military victories.

Power Lines: From Ukraine to the World — Ep. 1: Ukrainian Identity

By Anastasia Lapatina and Jakub Parusinski

Sept. 22

We want to make our stories even more engaging for the readers, and explore different formats. We have launched a YouTube channel, and a podcasts section. “Power Lines” is a podcast we produce in partnership with MessageHeard, a U.K. podcasting company. It looks at how the war is changing the world beyond Ukraine – and at how Ukraine itself is changing.

EXCLUSIVE: Escaping forced conscription in Russian-occupied Donetsk

Alexander Khrebet

Aug. 2

Since February, Russia has used Ukrainian citizens in occupied territories as cannon fodder, forcibly taking them from the streets and shipping them off to fight against their own country. Months into Russia’s brutal all-out invasion, the streets of occupied Donetsk and Luhansk were left empty.

The Kyiv Independent spoke with men from the occupied regions about their experience of dodging Russia’s attempt to get them killed. Some stayed at home for months, some were able to escape occupation, yet many were not so lucky.

‘Torturing people is fun for them.’ 16-year-old Ukrainian recalls his 3 months in Russian captivity

By Daria Shulzhenko

Aug. 5

Russian war crimes, specifically their torture chamber network, have been an often revisited subject for the Kyiv Independent. In this story, a Ukrainian teenager who spent 3 months in an improvised Russian jail in an occupied city recalls his life there: scrubbing blood off the torture chambers’ floors and trying to talk a fellow prisoner out of taking his life.

Ukrainian servicemen get ready to repel an attack in Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast on Feb. 24, 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

Suicide missions, abuse, physical threats: International Legion fighters speak out against leadership’s misconduct

By Anna Myroniuk and Alexander Khrebet

Aug. 17

This summer, we launched an investigations desk at the Kyiv Independent. Our debut story was an investigation into alleged misconduct in the International Legion, one of the units of the Ukrainian military. Publishing it had special meaning for us: It signified that we remained dedicated to journalistic standards and our journalistic mission even during the war, and have not succumbed to self-censorship.

They Are Why Ukraine Stands: Special tribute to fallen soldiers

By Daria Shulzhenko

On Aug. 24, exactly six months into Russia’s all-out war, Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day – the day many believed we would not be celebrating. On this day, we wanted to remind our readers and ourselves about the price of our independent: the heroic resistance and the sacrifices of the men and women that took up arms to protect the country they cherished.

The Kyiv Independent gathered information about some of the heroes who were killed defending Ukraine. Take a moment to remember them.

Von der Leyen: ‘I'm deeply convinced that Ukraine will win this war’

Oleksiy Sorokin

Sept. 16

During her September visit to Kyiv, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave an exclusive interview to the Kyiv Independent. One of Ukraine’s biggest supporters, von der Leyen talked about European assistance, Ukraine’s EU accession, and why she thinks Ukraine will win this war.

Editorial: Stop using Russia’s propaganda language to talk about its war in Ukraine

The Kyiv Independent

Sept. 29

When we think about Russian propaganda, we think of RT and the Kremlin’s clownish spokespeople. In this editorial, we highlighted how Russia’s more subtle propaganda has successfully made its way into mainstream Western media, causing them to use the Kremlin’s propaganda language when talking about Ukraine. The editorial ends with a little cheat sheet to help get Russia’s propaganda language out of one’s vocabulary.

Life near Russian-occupied nuclear plant: ‘I don’t know if tomorrow will come’

By Alexander Query

Oct. 4

Here’s a glimpse into life under Russia’s occupation in Enerhodar, in the shadow of the Zaporizhzhia plant, where Russians constantly abduct and torture the plant’s employees to pressure them into work. The never-ending nightmare of the population subjected to Russian occupation has to be told.

We wrote this story thanks to the testimony of residents of Enerhodar who braved the danger of Russia’s surveillance to tell the world about their daily ordeal.

A Ukrainian soldier with the callsign "Grandpa" keeps watch at a checkpoint on the road to Kherson in Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv Oblast on November 3, 2022. The checkpoint is just down the road from the border dividing Mykolaiv and Kherson Oblasts and just over a dozen kilometers from estimated Russian positions. (Byron Smith)

Surrounded and desperate: How Russia lost Lyman

Francis Farrell

Oct. 18

This is the story of Lyman, the city that spent less than 24 hours “officially part of Russia," liberated by the Ukrainian army the day after Donetsk Oblast was illegally annexed with a grotesque ceremony in Moscow. In Lyman, while civilians took cover from the battles for the city in their cellars, hundreds of Russian soldiers were killed in a desperate and futile attempt to avoid encirclement. We produced this story from several trips to Lyman shortly after liberation.

How Russia organized its torture chamber network in Kharkiv Oblast

By Alexander Query

Oct. 22

The horrors of the discovery of torture chambers in liberated Kharkiv Oblast revealed an even uglier truth: they were part of a well-organized system in which every cell was part of a bigger torture system intentionally built to destroy dissident Ukrainian voices, veterans and civilians alike.

The cold cruelty of the Kremlin’s killing machine transpired in the testimonies of its victims. We wrote this story from numerous trips and investigations following the trails of torture chambers in Kharkiv Oblast soon after it was liberated.

Voices from the trenches: Ukrainian soldiers near Kherson share what they feel and fear

By Igor Kossov

Nov. 9

Ukraine is celebrating the liberation of Kherson. Ukrainian soldiers have risked their lives to free the country from Russian occupation. Read what Ukrainian soldiers think about war, what they feel, fear and hope for.

Before you skip this banner, we want to tell you something…

The Kyiv Independent doesn’t depend on a wealthy owner or an oligarch — in 2023, 80% of our revenue was from reader contributions . It’s thanks to them that we don’t have to rely on a single owner.

Support us now and help maintain our independent model and keep our articles free for everyone. Your contributions allow us to cover journalists’ salaries, report from the front lines, and fund projects like our War Crimes Investigations Unit.

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