But there haven’t been any yet. These days, 44 mass media of the Luhansk People’s Republic (TV channels, radio channels and 30 newspapers) have become partners of Rossiyskaya Gazeta. This is where the phrase “our regiment has arrived” comes in: the employees of these publications worked on the Donbass fronts for nine years, as in the song: “With a watering can and a notebook, or even with a machine gun.” Dozens of journalists volunteered to go to the front.
– When a special military operation was announced, 28 of our guys entered military service, a third of the men’s team, – Elena Prasolova, general director of the state television and radio company of the Luhansk Republic, tells Rossiyskaya Gazeta. – Reporters, mechanics, drivers, workers adequately defended our land. There are dead. Among them is Alexander Mosin, director – he was a wonderful husband, father and professional of the highest order.
Andrei Krasnyanskoy, an operator, was killed in the first months of a special military operation. Also, Igor Strizhak. He was an engineer both by education and by position, but he dreamed of being a director and went to study. When the military operation began, he went to the front without hesitation, only he was afraid when now he could finish the directing department at our specialized university, the Matusovsky Academy. He dreamed of getting this additional specialty. I didn’t get it… Reliable guys, the backbone of the TV channel, talents died defending our land.
Photo: Vladimir Ladny
– Do you usually discuss whether a journalist should take up arms?
– A journalist shouldn’t. But we have a special situation, and when the enemy shelled our cities, journalists put aside their “watering can and notebook” and went into battle as soldiers. And they died like soldiers. While the cannons fire, the muses are silent. Our journalists and cameramen are all young, – continues Elena Yurievna. – And they all shoot: in our editorial office there is no status of a war correspondent, everyone goes to the front. Without weapons, but with helmets and bulletproof vests. My first deputy, Yevgeny Murylev, often takes responsibility for himself and, without replacing anyone, goes to trouble spots himself. Similarly, Ilya Malakhov, head of a creative association… In Russia, there is a very ambiguous perception of our territories. But we are in this war for the ninth year. You can call it what you want, both hybrid and civilian, and you can argue about it, but we’re at war. And today’s fights: it hurts, but it’s a brave decision. Because it would have happened anyway. We see how they are trying to strangle the Russian world, and in any case, we must fight back. If it wasn’t for Russia’s help, it would have been just scorched earth here… In early 2014, I wanted to cry because I didn’t understand what was happening, our own government fired on our own people, and when Russian tanks came to our help from Izvarino, what a joy!
Photo: Vladimir Ladny
What RG’s new content partners haven’t been through: battles, bombings, captivity, injuries, years of danger and uncertainty.
The journalists of “Rossiyskaya Gazeta” also have something to learn from them: when you meet them, you will not dare to say later that you are tired of your usual work.
– It is very difficult, we lost a lot of professionals, someone left, someone died, – tells us Tatyana Kutya, director of the Luganmedia holding. – Many correspondents work for three or four people: for their own newspaper, and even write to neighboring regions, where people have completely left. In 2014, when heavy fighting was taking place here, more than half became refugees. Someone then returned, then left again, unable to bear the hardships and dangers. There are not enough staff, but our guys are very diligent and responsible: they work in conditions that are simply unrealistic, when there is no light and no Internet. They understand everything, all these years our journalists and technical personnel went to the military. And now they are volunteers. Two have already died at the front, we wanted to take their pictures in the procession of the immortal regiment, but it was canceled again for security reasons, and now their portraits are on our editorial bus.
There aren’t that many “live” print publications left; now 29 surviving newspapers representing their municipalities have united into a holding company, Tatyana Yuryevna tells me. – The front-line regions are having a very difficult time … The publication of a newspaper in Lisichansk, Rubizhny, Kremennaya has been temporarily suspended, because everything is very difficult there. First, there is no internet.
Second, constant shelling. But many hold out even despite the fighting: in the same Severodonetsk from which I just came, not only a weekly newspaper is published, but they also include news from the front-line regions and distribute it to these regions. under fire.
Photo: Vladimir Ladny
– The republishing of publications according to Russian standards is progressing rapidly, transparent tax systems and an electronic budget have been introduced, – Anton Tokarev, an employee of the administration, tells us. – Everything is improving, even water was given to the regions. But until mid-2016, we generally sat without pay, worked for food. I worked at a carriage-building plant, and twice a month they gave us a salary in humanitarian aid: bread, dumplings; so it was still good: in 2014 for many months they did not pay anything.
– We also receive salaries as “hedgehogs”, as we call meat semi-finished products, – says Lyudmila Ostashkova. – You come home and share with all the neighbors. They worked until midnight. The light in the official car was not on for safety, in the dark you get in the car, and you fall on a machine gun or a grenade launcher, journalists, they were all militiamen, always ready for a real battle. Somehow I sat on a grenade, shouting: slow down, check the discharge, who lost it? Then they laughed, mocked me: “princess in a grenade.” Somehow the shooting began, everyone fell to the ground, the driver Oleg forced the film crew to jump out of the car into the shelter, and he himself passed under the blows of enemy artillery to save the car, and he was saved!
Then he says – how could it be otherwise, and so the whole team breaks!
Photo: Vladimir Ladny
On behalf of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the contracts were signed by Andrey Pershin, Deputy Director General. “It is very good,” he said, “that our colleagues from Lugansk join the great family of content partners. Almost a quarter of the regional media in Russia are associated with us. There are also a lot of foreigners, from China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan. We have the opportunity to exchange information, now we will publish materials from Lugansk journalists, and they, in turn, can take materials from Rossiyskaya Gazeta and Rodina magazine for free. Also, we will be happy to accept colleagues from Luhansk for an internship, we have long established this practice. Even now, one of our content partners, the editor-in-chief of the Peremena Peremena newspaper, Natalia Khanova, has come with us and right now she is working with volunteers at a local hospital.
… And the day after the agreement signing ceremony here, in the center of Lugansk, Ukrainian missiles hit again.
“We were thrown out of the administration building on an air raid alert, and we were on the street when all this passed over us,” Lyudmila Ostashkova, head of the print media department, tells me. – To be honest, today for the first time I heard how this new rocket “whispers”. Regular feel, something between an airplane and a Hymars.
– We are used to it. But with the arrival of Russia, we have water. And the hope.