Three AP journalists defy shelling and siege to document a city in the crosshairs.

Rarely is the difference so stark between news organizations that subscribe to the AP and those that don’t. That’s down to the tireless efforts of AP staffers around the world who have reported, edited, planned, provisioned and advised to make our coverage of Ukraine truly stellar. And it’s especially true in the coverage of a single city that has seen some of the war’s worst horrors.

AP’s Germany-based video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and freelance producer Vasilisa Stepanenko have been the only international journalists to chronicle the tragedies of Mariupol. The team was recognized with last week’s Best of the Week award, and their unflinching coverage continued, the world riveted not only by their presence, but by their stunning journalism. Amid the chaos, they have found stories so moving — and told them so compellingly — that it’s impossible to tell the broader story of Ukraine without them.

“Their images,” wrote Nick Schifrin of PBS NewsHour, “are defining this war.”

Chief among those are pictures of heavily pregnant women, wounded by a Russian attack, being evacuated from a maternity hospital. The photos were on front pages around the world, and the video led newscasts everywhere. Chernov and Maloletka followed up later from another hospital where the women were taken, finding that one of the women had died, her baby stillborn; the other had given birth to a healthy girl. They also captured the birth of a baby girl to a third woman wounded in the attack: Little Alana wasn’t breathing when she emerged, but after some tense moments the operating room erupted in cheers and tears when she suddenly let out a cry. Moments later, a nurse shielded the newborn in a doorway as the operating room shook from the impact of more shelling.

The day after the attack on the hospital, Chernov and Maloletka followed some of the victims to a mass grave, where workers dumped bodies into a pit, so overwhelmed were they by the number of dead. They captured dramatic images of Russian tanks pounding an apartment building. They showed rescuers pulling a woman from the rubble of one attack, and comforting a partially buried boy nearby as the life sapped out of him. They covered looting. They covered scavenging. They even covered a man chasing an escaped guinea pig down the street.

Most of all, they covered fear: people huddled in bomb shelters and hallways, shaking and screaming with desperation in the knowledge that there was nowhere to escape to.

The team’s work resonated globally:

On Wednesday night, Britain’s ITV dedicated the first six minutes of its flagship “News at Ten” program to a compendium of the team’s work, calling out the AP three times during the segment and — in an unprecedented move — ending by naming Chernov, Maloletka and Stepanenko as “The Associated Press team risking their safety to film these harrowing pictures.”

“The Morning” newsletter of The New York Times had this to say:

”Since the war began, two of the few working journalists in Mariupol have been Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka of The Associated Press. My colleagues and I were deeply affected by their dispatch, and we’re turning over the lead section of today’s newsletter to an excerpt from it.“
David Leonhardt, “The Morning” newsletter

And AP Executive Editor Julie Pace told Vanity Fair for a piece on Chernov and Maloletka, “This is a story that they are telling from the perspective of people who are watching their country be attacked. Covering this is personal for them, and they have felt a real responsibility to make sure that the world is seeing what’s happening.“

For courageous, must-have coverage from the heart of the world’s biggest story, AP recognizes the team of Chernov, Maloletka and Stepanenko as this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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