VICE UK’s news editor, Henry Langston, is on the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, where it’s been reported that at least 37 people have been killed—mainly from police gunshots. He called us this morning to give us an update on the situation.
The Ukraine Uprising Had Its Bloodiest Day Yet Yesterday
Kiev was burning again on Tuesday. After a period of calm, yesterday’s violence was the deadliest since Ukraine’s “Euromaidan” protests began in November.
The number of deaths rose throughout the day, as more and more corpses were found in the streets of Kiev. By Wednesday morning, at least 25 people had lost their lives, including nine police officers. Reports about the number of injured vary but start at over 200. A Ukrainian doctor on the scene said that the real number could run “into the thousands,” and the tolls of those both killed and wounded are only likely to rise. A stream of photos on social media showed people, many of them apparently unconscious, with their faces covered in blood.
Yesterday’s crackdown was a brutal riposte to anyone who thought the situation in Ukraine would be settled any time soon—a position that didn’t seem too fanciful as recently as a few days ago. On Sunday, police and protesters started to pull back from their standoff on Kiev’s Hrushevskoho Street, the site of the worst clashes in January. The place was an absolute mess: a sea of soot, tires, and burned-out vehicles, studded with Ukrainian and foreign flags.
VICE News: Meet Aris Roussinos
VICE News is launching soon. Meet Aris Roussinos, a Rory Peck Award-winning journalist who covers not only traditional hot spots like Mali, Syria and South Sudan, but from the front lines of social movements and urban conflicts that are changing the face of the world as we know it.
Cairo, Egypt. January 28, 2013. A protester covers his head with a plastic bag he’s using as a makeshift gas mask during clashes near Tahrir Square.
Moises Saman’s Stunning Photos of Humanity in Conflict Zones
Peruvian photographer Moises Saman has spent the past few years living and working in Cairo and documenting the effects of the Egyptian revolution on the city’s residents—though he might argue that “documenting” is the wrong word. His work willfully avoids a chronological, ordered, historical view of the uprising, instead focusing on capturing humanity and the emotions of the participants. We spoke to him about how he maintains faith in humanity after working in war zones for years and the irrelevance of “objectivity” in relation to his work.
VICE: I heard that it was images of the Balkan conflict that initially made you interested in photography. Is that right?
Moises Saman: Yeah, that was the first time I had any interest in photojournalism. Seeing that work in the mid- and late 1990s was an inspiration.
That seems odd, even by the standards of war reportage—the Balkans conflict always seemed to me a brutal and especially grim war. What was it that hooked you?
I don’t know if it was necessarily anything particular about the photos, though amazing work was done there. I think it was more to do with that specific period in my life. It was a time when everything clicked in my head—when I started paying attention to the news and the world. Covering that war day in, day out was the moment that I “dialed in,” if you know what I mean. I became interested in the world beyond my personal bubble.
You went to the Balkans at the end of the conflict there—how did that trip effect your newfound awareness of the world?
I went in 1999, in the summer. I was totally unprepared and it was a badly thought-out trip. My good friend who was meant to be with me pulled out, so I went alone. I maxed out my credit card and didn’t sell one picture from the trip. I had tried to read up on the situation, but once I was actually there, I realized I didn’t know what I was doing at all.
I needed to do it, though. I think good things came of it, and my experiences there matured me a bit. I went there, and I made mistakes, but thank God I came home in one piece. If anything, it reassured me that I wanted to continue exploring photojournalism.
A lot of your work tends to be done in war zones. How do you feel about the tag of “war photographer”—is it a label you resent?
I don’t know if “resent” is the right word. But I don’t like it. I think it’s full of connotations that don’t really represent what I’m about as a photographer. It’s true that I tend to work in a lot of conflict zones. Somehow I hope my work is not just seen as something that is only related to conflict—people killing people and so on. Within the context of violence and repression, I try to find some moments that transcend that.
Sometimes it doesn’t work, of course, but it’s what I aim for. I look for moments that we can all relate to. It’s not just about showing events and images that eventually we all will become numb to—pictures of dead people or violence. So “war photographer” is a term I shy away from.
Why Are Journalists Being Imprisoned in Egypt?
Abdullah Elshamy, an Al Jazeera correspondent, has now been in prison for 175 days and on hunger strike for a little over two weeks.
"I’ve lost a number of pounds. I only rely on liquids. The littlest effort makes me feel dizzy,"he wrote in a letter smuggled out of his prison cell, where he isn’t allowed access to pens or paper. “But it’s what I feel compelled to do in order to raise awareness about the importance of freedom of speech.”
Abdullah—who was arrested during August last year when armed police violently cleared a sit-in by supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi—is one of four Al Jazeera journalists in jail, all held on vague charges while prosecutors prepare formal proceedings. They are among the dozens of reporters in Egypt who have been beaten up or detained over the past six months. Nine more have been killed since the start of the uprising in 2011.
These arrests and many of the deaths are symptomatic of what the country has turned into since the army ousted the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated Morsi last summer. Egypt’s interim government is doing everything in its power to silence Brotherhood sympathizers, crushing the country’s revolutionary street movements by issuing a law that effectively bans any form of public protest.
Protesters Are Dying in the Streets of Kiev, Ukraine
The anti-government demonstrations in Kiev have taken a deadly turn, as the news on Wednesday was dominated by fights between protesters and riot police in the gas and smoke-strewn streets of the Ukrainian capital. In the morning, the BBC posted a video of a man lying in the snow. By nightfall, four other deaths had been reported. Ironically, news of the casualties—the first in a period of civil unrest that began two months ago—came on Ukraine’s Day of National Unity.
“I think this is the start of a civil war,” Yaroslav Hrytsak, a well-known historian and public intellectual, said Wednesday night on Ukrainian public radio. Street battles continued in the area around Kiev’s Hrushevskoho Street, as protesters armed with Molotov cocktails faced off with riot police. As the two sides struggled, some protesters constructed a trebuchet that looked like it would be more at home in a medieval siege than a protest in 2014 aimed at steering an ostensibly democratic country toward the European Union.