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RFE/RL journalsits rescue the man they interviewed after a Russian strike

16.02.2024, 12:31
Journalist providing first aid to a wounded soldier. Photo by RFE/RL
Journalist providing first aid to a wounded soldier. Photo by RFE/RL

In the summer of 2023, a Radio Liberty filming crew rescued the man they had interviewed after coming under a Russian missile strike in the Donetsk oblast together with some soldiers.

The media outlet shared the details of the incident for the first time.

It happened dozens of kilometers away from the front line. The correspondents were filming a story about an army unit preparing for combat and about the work of military instructors.

The filming crew survived. However, some Ukrainian soldiers were killed and wounded by the strike.

Reporter Yevhenia Kytaiva says that they had arrived at the location arranged for them by the UAF soldiers. That day, the Ukrainian unit was preparing for the upcoming assault.

Camerawoman Hanna Kudryavtseva filmed all the stages of the training, and Yevhenia Kytaiva interviewed the soldiers in order to understand what exactly the unit is doing at any given moment.

When the missile hit, the journalists were talking to the chief instructor, "Mansur", and were 15–20 meters away from the explosion's epicenter.

The blast wave threw them to the ground. Hanna and Yevhenia were unharmed, but the instructor was wounded. The shrapnel pierced him through, entering through the back and exiting through the chest.

The wounded army instructor "Mansur". Photo by Radio Liberty

A fire broke out in the spot where the Russian missile hit. Nothing could be seen through the smoke and the soot. The correspondents heard the other soldiers screaming and realised that "Mansur" was not the only one wounded. Later, the ammunition began to detonate nearby from the fire.

There were no medics around – they had left the unit with some soldiers after the training. The journalists had to rescue "Mansur" and other wounded soldiers themselves.

They had a medical backpack in the trunk of their car with all the first aid necessities. Even though the car was completely destroyed, the backpack survived.

Journalist taking the medical backpack out of the ruined car. Photo by Radio Liberty

"We are here. We have something to help you. Hang on," I ordered, taking out occlusion stickers from my backpack (a special patch with a valve for closing wounds in the chest. – Ed.). At that moment, Hanna was already cutting his clothes to open access to the wound. "Mansur" was conscious, but said nothing. He was groaning and only sometimes nodding in response to our questions," says Yevhenia Kytaiva.

Journalists providing first aid to "Mansur". Photo by Radio Liberty

The soldiers started carrying their severely wounded comrades to the journalists, and they tried to help everyone who happened to be nearby.

"My biggest fear was that they would bring in a wounded person whom we would not be able to help. At that moment, I was more afraid of that than of possible future strikes," recalls Kytaiva.

Later, the first evacuation vehicle arrived. Four soldiers were loaded there, along with "Mansur". Then more evacuation vehicles arrived and took away all the soldiers.

Applying bandages. Photo by Radio Liberty

"We were reassuring each other and were sincerely glad that our entire filming crew survived, together with the driver Volodymyr Yavniuk. But there were wounded and dead among the Ukrainian soldiers. One of the instructors, Borys Chubin, whom we interviewed that day, died on the spot," says Kytaiva, adding that they had released the video of Borys's last interview in September.

They met with "Mansur" a few months later. He completed his treatment and rehabilitation and is already back in the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Yevhenia Kytaiva notes that they had never provided first aid to such a large number of people before that incident.

"We are happy for everyone who, like us, managed to survive. We are glad that we were able to help someone. This difficult experience changed us. On our way to Kramatorsk, where our filming crew was based at that time, we talked among ourselves about how invaluable tactical medicine courses are," says reporter Yevhenia Kytaiva.

RFE/RL has sent a request to the Donetsk Prosecutor's Office for information on the investigation into this incident and will publish the reply as soon as it is received.

On August 30, 2023, a Radio Liberty filming crew came under missile fire in the Donetsk oblast. The incident happened while the crew (reporter Yevhenia Kytaiva and camerawoman Anna Kudryavtseva) was reporting. The group also included driver Volodymyr Yavniuk. The shelling damaged the car they were driving. The crew was not injured.

Anna Kudryavtseva has been doing frontline reporting since 2014. Yevhenia Kytaiva has been working in combat areas since 2015. They have been working together for seven years.

Driver Volodymyr Yavniuk has been working with Radio Liberty since 2021.

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