Stunning body-camera footage by a courageous medic is smuggled out of Mariupol by AP. The medic has disappeared in Russian hands.
A celebrated Ukrainian medic recorded her front-line work in Mariupol on a data card no bigger than a thumbnail, which was then smuggled out to the world inside a tampon.
The result was a remarkable all-formats story on May 19 showing firsthand the horror of the war in the besieged southeastern Ukrainian city. It came about through source reporting by AP’s courageous team in Mariupol and earns Best of the Week — First Winner honors.
AP received the video from the body camera of medic Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, a nickname she chose from the World of Warcraft video game. It contained exclusive footage of the people she treated, including a child who died.
Days after handing off the data card to a Ukrainian police officer, Paiveska was captured by Russian forces. The officer was able to get the card to the AP team in Mariupol, who smuggled it out of Mariupol in the tampon, taking it past 15 Russian checkpoints as they evacuated the city.
The medic’s story drew attention to important issues including the Russian treatment of prisoners at a time when the remaining Mariupol defenders are now in their hands. It also signaled that a number of prominent Ukrainians, like the medic, have disappeared. And it undermined the Russian narrative that the medic was a member of the far-right Azov battalion by showing, through her own footage, that she showed compassion to Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainians.
Producer Vasilisa Stepanenko, who was part of the AP team based in Mariupol until March 15, smuggled the data card out of the city. She and videojournalist Mstyslav Chernov, who was also in Mariupol, put the story together with Paris-based global investigations writer Lori Hinnant. New York photo editor Alyssa Goodman handled the stunning presentation and Serginho Roosblad, a San Francisco-based producer, put together the dramatic video. Journalists Sarah el Deeb, Inna Varenytsia, Elena Becatoros and Erika Kinetz also contributed.
Stepanenko smuggled the card through 15 Russian checkpoints as the AP team evacuated Mariupol.
The story was AP’s most-engaged and most-viewed story of the week on apnews.com, with a perfect engagement score of 100 and more than 710,000 pageviews. The video reached 1 million views on Twitter and more than 500,000 views on YouTube.
The work also drew enormous media attention. Hinnant appeared on PBS and two French television networks. CBS News used footage, crediting AP, and among the many media mentions, The Guardian called it an “extraordinary report”; New York Times editor Cliff Levy described it as “an incredible story”; and Rachel Maddow called it “stunning.”
For a riveting look at the tragedy in Mariupol and shining a needed and compassionate light on the fate of a courageous medic, the team of Stepanenko, Hinnant, Chernov, Goodman and Roosblad share AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.