After last month’s epic lighting up of the Russian embassy in the colours of the Ukraine flag, the Frontline Club has set up an operation base in Lviv, Ukraine. We aim to run a series of hostile environment and battlefield first aid courses for freelance journalists covering the conflict.
Lviv Train Station. Photo by Paul Conroy.
After an epic two-day drive, fuelled chiefly by weapons-grade coffee and Red Bull, we arrived in Lviv, a city cautiously optimistic about its future.
Yes, air raid sirens punctuate everyday activities, but most people glance briefly to the sky and then go about their business with little more than a shrug. That’s just the way it is here in the west, but scratch beneath the surface, and there is a little more to it.
Over a coffee in the sunlit square, I met a Turkish opera singer and his Ukrainian wife, both long term residents of Lviv. ‘Yes, it’s peaceful now,’ he said, before pointing to the north, ‘but we don’t trust Lukashenko and Belarus. If they want, their rockets could hit us in minutes.’ He shrugged, cursed Putin, and carried on, ‘No one is truly safe until every last Russian is gone from Ukraine soil.’
In a well-stocked bar off the main square, the Ukraine media centre is a frenetic hive of activity. Body armour is signed out, and journalists begin the long-haul east to where the most intense fighting is.
Waiting for me in the media briefing room was a group of thirty would-be fixers. Fixers are the oil of the international press’s engine room. Without them, there would be no news as we know it, and in Ukraine at the moment, fixers are in demand.
As part of a joint initiative, the Frontline Club has teamed up with IPWR to provide an introductory background lecture on the role of fixers and how they can minimise risk in a hostile environment.
The hour talk stretched into two, the participants had many relevant questions, and apart from a few queasy looks when we got into the nitty-gritty of snipers and artillery bombardment, all seemed satisfied by the overview we provided.
The next phase of the operation is a hostile environment and battlefield first aid course for Ukrainian TV journalists.