Talk Description to Me

Episode 92 - Russia Invades Ukraine

February 25, 2022 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 4 Episode 92
Talk Description to Me
Episode 92 - Russia Invades Ukraine
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this Breaking News episode recorded the morning of Friday February 25th, 2022, Christine and JJ describe news images and video clips from the first 36 hours of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  

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Christine Malec:

This is a special Breaking News episode of Talk description to me. It's the morning of Friday the 25th of February for us here in Toronto. And so the coverage that we're going to do on Ukraine, and the situation there is from this time, and please, and we had a very salient request from Shelly, to start with the geography of the region of Ukraine, and I particularly appreciated this in light of something that I heard on the radio and that I always forget, when it comes to things in places where you don't live like an invasion, it's easy to forget that these aren't lines on a map. These are regions where people live, and they have back and forth and they have relationships. And it's not regions that are completely separate from each other and foreign. These are people who interact and live with each other all the time, and which makes it even more frightening. So, JJ, can you help us understand some of the geography of the region?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, absolutely. So Ukraine is a large country in Eastern Europe, it's quite big, the second largest country in Europe after Russia. Just to you for comparison, it's about 20,000 square miles larger than France, about 30,000 square miles smaller than Texas. So that might help people get get a sense of how, how large it is, it doesn't have a particularly easy to describe shape, I'm afraid. It's larger running east west than it is running north south. It's a bit like a, like a horizontal cloud shape. I'm sorry, I don't have any better analogies. for it. It's not it's not a particularly clear shape. It has major borders. With Russia, it shares a border with Russia at the northeast, with Belarus and Poland at the Northwest, with Romania and Moldova at the Southwest, and it borders the Black Sea in the south east. The biggest city is the capital Kiev. And that's in the central North, and it's very close to borders with to the border with Russia and Belarus. And Kharkiv is the second biggest city, it's in the Northeast, and it is even closer to the Russian border. Just a note on pronunciation there. Kiev is a closer pronunciation to, to the Ukrainian pronunciation of of that city. Many of us grew up knowing the city as Kiev, which apparently is a more Russian pronunciation, we're going to be trying to use Kiev. In this podcast moving forward. There is an area at the eastern edge of Ukraine that is claimed and controlled by Russia. And then there's Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that juts out into the Black Sea that is also claimed and controlled by Russia. That was annexed I think that was in 2014. There have been some really interesting maps that news organizations have put out to illustrate the how this invasion has taken place thus far. And they really do illustrate how large an invasion this is, and really, how coordinated. So a lot of these maps feature a drawing of the country of Ukraine with the borders in all on all sides. And then there are generally arrows moving into the country. And in some cases, there are little numbered circles and each one of those numbered circles. When you relate to the key you can you get a note about what exactly has happened. So this number relates to this advance, this number relates to Chernobyl being captured, this number relates to this number of dead after this missile attack, and so on and so forth. So as far as the the direction of the of the invasion, there were strikes from the north, so strikes from both Belarus and Russia. And these were strikes on Kiev and the region on Lutsk in the region, and also strikes on Kharkiv. And then strikes from the east. So strikes on several cities that are around the Russian controlled territory, as well as strikes from the south coming up from Crimea and the Black Sea there. There were attacks on Odessa attacks on naval bases. Really looking at these maps, it's it becomes clear, every area of the country has been under some kind of attack, whether it's airstrikes or invasions by by sea or troops moving inland. I think originally there was some idea that Ukrainians would be able to move, move west, but in fact that that hasn't been the case that the whole country is under some sort of attack right now.

Christine Malec:

We know we have listeners in the region, and we're sending all of our hopes for your safety. It's so scary.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah.

Christine Malec:

JJ, can you tell us about the images that you're seeing of what's actually going on on the ground in the air?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, so there have been just so a little bit of background, and really don't want to give much because we're trying to work very quickly on this. Not a lot of analysis here, just grabbing images and describing. I don't have a ton of notes. I just have images here. But a little bit of background 3am GMT, this is early morning on Friday, the 24th, which for those of us in North North America, that's Thursday night, the night of the 23rd. Putin announces a special military operation in quotes against Ukraine, and he announces this on TV. And then the attack begins within minutes, like it almost simultaneously. And, you know, there are lots of news outlets posting pretty amazing images and videos from reporters. But there are also a lot of images from citizen journalists, people filming and taking pictures on their cell phones. I'm going to mostly be describing images that come from news sources. And those I guess that those news sources they are also sourcing from citizen journalists. But that you know, by by taking the images from the news sources themselves, hopefully someone has verified their accuracy and timelines and so forth. There is a really an amazing timeline available from the New York Times others have timelines as well, they read like Twitter feeds. So this isn't just like a single article written about what's happening. These are bits of information being added as they become available and can be verified, there are tweets that are included in those timelines, and also photos and video clips as well. And what I find amazing about these is it's not only are the photos and in video clips, it's not just the big iconic moments, it's not just the showstopper images, but small important images that fill in the narrative. So for example, the New York Times has a has a little bit of security camera footage from the Crimea border crossing that shows lines of Russian tanks and supply trucks entering Ukraine. And this is perhaps the very moment that the invasion began. It's grainy footage. It's filmed from a roofline camera mounted on the on the checkpoint, it's pointed down at the road. And in some of the footage, it actually looks like someone has filmed a security monitor with their cell phone. And obviously, if there's dramatic footage of Russian tanks attacking Ukrainian cities, which there is, then we know that tanks got into the country, it's not news that the tanks got into the country. But I still find it remarkable that the actual moment that the line was crossed is documented that we have access to that very moment that the tanks drove down the highway, and through the border crossing, I just find that remarkable. So footage of actual battles and encounters. We're starting to see some of this come in, again, some on social media, some from news organizations, there's footage of an explosion at the Melitopol airport, pardon my pronunciation. This is an airport north of Crimea in the south. Cell phone footage, which has been verified by CNN and others. This is cellphone footage with a vertical orientation. This explosion is a great big fireball in the distance behind what looks like an apartment building. The fireball expands and turns into grey smoke can't see exactly what is hitting but reports say that it is the airport beyond this. Behind this apartment building. There are these arching smoke trails that are emerging from the explosion with the good bits of orange like fire flame or something at the front of them to kind of look like sparks coming off of a campfire in slow motion. And then there appears to be a secondary explosion the sound of what of a secondary explosion hits us but it's quite possible that this is actually just the delayed sound of the initial explosion taking a certain amount of time to reach the camera and microphone because this is being filmed from a distance the Guardian and in some other newspapers. They had cell phone video of helicopters attacking the outskirts of Kiev. One video filmed from what looks like a grassy hill top helicopters passing in the distance moving from our right to left these are black helicopters and they are releasing what I don't I'm not sure bombs missiles. I watched One helicopter in slow motion, and it looked like half a dozen glowing lights bursts from the helicopter simultaneously and then they spread out and away from the front of the chopper in a very deliberate pattern. I saw another very shaky video this one without sound, about a dozen helicopters swooping low over a town and then some of them circling around some of the moving across. The sky is is gray there's dark smoke billowing from several spots in the town. The houses that are in this town we see all the rooftops and you know this is a residential area brown and red peaked roof tops, some bare winter tree tops, and these helicopters are they're moving fairly fast and they've got their noses down when a helicopter is moving forward. at a pace it tends to tip forward, nose down. And these helicopters just sweeping across across this town. I've seen photos of bombed radar trucks. These are large military trucks with them four sets of tires on the rear like very big trucks, heavy trucks, and they have large radar dishes mounted on top. Some of these trucks that were bombed, remain standing and are still recognizable as trucks but they're really they look more like charred frames at this point, just the charred frame of the radar dish on top. The charred frame of the vehicle on standing on their tires. Al Jazeera posted photos of damaged residential buildings. These are concrete apartment buildings that have several floors worth of balconies just completely destroyed, reduced to bent rebar and charred chunks of concrete piles of rubble and tile on the ground. And to the outside the exterior of these buildings just parked with bullet holes. And in some of the photos. I found some photos on I believe it was on a Yahoo News site. There are images of people walking away from these buildings, some of them dressed in their winter coats with backpacks slung over their shoulders. In some cases, the building residents were photographed, bloodied and injured, wearing makeshift bloodsoaked bandages over wounds caked with dirt. This is photos taken right in the immediate aftermath. Really very raw pictures.

Christine Malec:

Are there images, are there more images on that scale of the human scale of how individuals how people are coping in the situation?

JJ Hunt:

There are. Some of the most remarkable pictures are our people hiding. This happened so quickly. I mean, obviously there's been escalation obviously there's been lots of talk and worry but the actual attack was so quick. People tried to flee very quickly or still trying to flee and go and they went into hiding. So I've got pictures here of both people fleeing and people hiding. So lots of people are taking shelter in subway systems. This is you know, a time honored tradition subway system is deep underground, a good place to shelter. So there are people taking shelter in Kiev and Kharkiv there are amazing photos that are being passed around online that are quite rightly being compared to pictures of of the Brits hiding in the tube during the Blitz in World War Two. Lots of pictures of of people in parkas wearing hoods up to keep themselves warm, looking at cell phones and they've got you know luggage and animal carriers at their feet and small cats and dogs in their lap. I've got a picture here inside a corridor in one of these subway stations. I believe this one's in Kharkiv and it's a rather glamorous subway station that's got a an arched roof so it looks like a long tube, all in white plaster and there are there are frescoes on the wall and their actual gold chandelier is hanging from the ceilings a really glamorous station in the hallway the hallway the cord with all the floors are just lined with people lying in piles you know all kind of huddled up with blankets covering them and their hoods up many drinking from plastic water bottles and in looking at cell phones. Another image here of a staircase, a stairwell going down I think this is in a Kiev subway station and it's a big wide hallway or pardon me a big wide staircase going down with them like tan marble tiles on the walls it looks like and the big wide staircase there's a narrow channel up the middle that's that's empty but on both sides the stairs are just lined with people sitting somewhere in COVID masks a lot with their their coat hoods pulled up pieces of luggage at their feet. I have another image here from inside a subway station, a group of people sitting on benches, and, you know, some some really nice pieces of luggage at people's feet, you know, designer luggage and roller bags that you would take on an airplane and two of the women who are sitting on this bench, they look like middle aged women and each one of them has a small dog sitting on their lap. And you know, I gotta say looking at these, these images of people hiding in subway stations. There's something about the the kind of cheerfully colored hats, and scarves and these roller bags and plastic luggage sets that are meant for overhead compartments on airplanes. I find them really unsettling in the old London Blitz, photographs, you know, those pictures are all in black and white and everything the wool blankets and boxy old suitcases and maybe even small steamer trunks. And obviously, I recognize that the two situations people hiding in the Blitz and people here hiding now are the situations are very much the same. But in looking at these pictures, I'm recognizing how the old fashioned trappings and textures of those world war two images, perhaps made those experiences feel a little bit less real for me. These modern vacation bags, and like fashion scarves and fashion hats. They look so much more out of place and personal. It's it's very real. It's very it's right now these are contemporaries. And there's something about those colors and the trappings that are that I really connect with when I'm looking at these, these these images from yesterday.

Christine Malec:

I totally understand that. And actually what caught me was the COVID mask.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah.

Christine Malec:

Because I'm gripped by all the horrible and then "Oh, yeah. COVID."

JJ Hunt:

COVID!

Christine Malec:

And just... [sigh]. Obviously people are trying to escape. What's going on? Are we getting images of of that part?

JJ Hunt:

Yes, there are photos of people preparing to flee. People getting ready to hunker down and people actually leaving so photos of long lines of cars down streets near gas stations like you can see the gas station in the distance and then there's a long line of cars leading toward it. lineups of people standing outside of grocery stores standing at ATMs. And what I What's interesting about a lot of these photos, if there are people in them, the people obviously look quite gloomy, but calm. These are not scenes of chaos. There are lot people lined up, waiting their turn to get into the grocery store waiting to get to the ATM. This one image that has been going around of the cars leaving Kiev it's quite something so this is judging by the gray sky it looks like probably taken early morning is that there's an eight lane road that goes through the city that enters the image from the bottom of the photo and then it crests the road crests the horizon quite near the top of the image. So it's an eight lane road with four lanes on either side of a central divider. And the you know the big wide road itself is is lined on both sides with the older cement apartment buildings and in winter trees. And on the left side of the highway divider in the four lanes that are coming toward us. There's modest traffic so cars with headlights driving in our direction. And the four lanes on the right side of the divider these are the lanes of cars where the people are driving away from us. The road is absolutely jammed with cars exiting the city. four lanes absolutely packed not a single break in the cars you truly can barely even see the road. You can see cars bumper to bumper, these glowing red tail lights one after the other after the other after the other hundreds probably 1000s of cars heading off again this this this four lanes of traffic entering the image at the bottom of the image cresting the horizon up near the top have the image nothing but tail lights on for lanes exiting the city.

Christine Malec:

There have been some protests in Russia that are generating some visuals too, that are worth talking about. Right?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, these incredible protests. Actually massive protests in Russia. And there are hundreds of people in rallies the gathering and rallies in European capitals, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm, Prague. But it's really the this this protest in St. Petersburg on Nevsky Prospekt. This is the main street in St. Petersburg and 1000s of people showed up to protest. I've got a photo here that was passed around on social media. I mean, it's just incredible. Hundreds and hundreds 1000s of people in this one photo, it's they're lining a very, very, very wide sidewalk, this street, Nevsky prospect is it's just a gorgeous, very wide street lined with extraordinary civic buildings in there just massive the whole area is, is really stunning. And the wide, wide sidewalks are packed in this one photo with people. And these are just, again, looking at the people. You know, I am always reluctant to describe crowds, but this is these are all people with light skin tone, but wearing all different kinds of clothing, they are young, they are older, they are you know dressed in their regular street clothes, many wearing COVID masks, you know, coats and and touques. And the street is packed in these folks are the crowd recedes into the distance on this street. That's to the point where you can't see where the crowd ends 1000s of people all standing and facing the camera. It's a quite an extraordinary picture. And then then there are photos of people carrying signs and banners. I read signs that translated to Ukraine peace, Russia freedom assigned reading no war to Ukraine, I saw a sign reading I'm ashamed to be Russian. Someone carrying a sign of a big man carrying a sign that read Putin must resign. And the man who was holding that sign was being pulled away by two smaller police officers. They were flanking him, dragging him away, and they were wearing black parkas and black fur hats. incredible to see signs like this being on display, you know, in St. Petersburg in a massive rally and then something like I've read something like 1700 people were detained arrested at this one protest in St. Petersburg. Photos of people literally being dragged, carried away by police officers with batons and you know, Riot helmets and riot shields. Again, just incredible images of these protests from from Russia within Russia.

Christine Malec:

We often hear on social media and anecdotally, from people we know that these breaking news episodes are really important to people. And speaking with all modesty, I think that there isn't anyone else doing quite what we're doing. And so if you are affiliated or know of an organization that can help spread the word about what we're doing, and that might be able to help support us so that we can keep keep producing these, especially the breaking news episodes because they're sort of out of our regular sequence of what we do and what we post. If you are affiliated with an organization that you think can help in spreading the word or supporting us, please either let us know in our social media or just be in touch with them and let them know that we are on Patreon, which you will hear in our outro about how to how to find that. But we definitely want our work to reach as many people as possible, and we want to be able to keep doing the work as well. So thank you for listening. You've been listening to a special Breaking News episode of Talk description to me. If you have questions or feedback you can email talk description to me@gmail.com. We are on Twitter at talk description. And our Facebook page is titled talk description to me. If you'd like to help support the show, you can visit patreon.com to be a monthly donor. That's pa t ar e o n.com/talk description to me

Maps
Invasion images
Hiding in subways
Fleeing
Protests