The Associated Press spent two weeks with a Ukrainian assault brigade for an intimate glimpse into the speed, direction and cost of the grinding counteroffensive to regain Bakhmut, through scenes witnessed in the forest and at rest, in helmet camera footage and drone video.
Ukraine-based Mtsyslav Chernov’s latest stellar reporting was unparalleled and gathered at great risk. He spent two weeks with members of a Ukrainian assault brigade on the way to Bakhmut, and accompanied a commander as he raised the Ukrainian flag in a village under shelling. Using self-shot material, drone footage and helmet camera video, Chernov wove together the narrative of the brigade’s struggle, both on the front line of fighting and the work of those in the command center directing forces. Viewers were taken on the journey with the brigade and exposed to the stark realities of the war — foxholes, close-quarter gun battles, trauma and death.
Lori Hinnant brought this story alive in words with a gripping blow-by-blow account of what the men had to go through, while photographer Alex Babenko and producer Volodymyr Yurchuk also helped put the stunning package together.
The story’s timing was perfect, coming just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was trying to build support for the Ukrainian counteroffensive at the United Nations. It showed both the difficulty and slowness of the counteroffensive, and the role it would play in any victory. The video story spanned two newsroom-ready video reports, both of which have been used hundreds of times by customers. The story was also among the most engaged of the entire week at a time when Ukraine was high on the Biden administration’s agenda, showing the importance of continuing to bear witness.
For securing unparalleled access and taking great personal risk to produce an intimate picture of Ukraine’s frontline, Chernov and Hinnant are awarded Best of the Week — First Winner.