Osychenko says he had big plans to expand the station this year—new shows, and he wanted to create a new studio. Everything is now on pause, and the team has pivoted to posting on its social media channels. Mariupolskoe TV’s studios have been destroyed, according to Osychenko. “Everything is burned,” he says. The station’s studios are—were—near a park in Mariupol, far from any military targets, Osychenko says. For now, Osychenko is worried about two things: making sure the world knows the horrors of Mariupol, and the safety of his employees. “I have 89 people in my channel,” he says. “I only know that 41 of these people with me are still alive.”
Across Mariupol, the loss of communications means a shroud conceals what’s happening on the ground. People outside the city don’t know if their loved ones inside are alive; those still inside don’t know if it’s safe to try to escape the shelling. “At first I couldn’t understand why Mariupol fell apart so quickly,” one member of a team of Associated Press journalists, who were the last international journalists in the city, wrote once they had safely escaped
The lack of access to information has placed Mariupol at the center of a swirl of disinformation. After Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital, about 20 minutes on foot from the Kyivstar offices, the Russian government used images of Ukrainian beauty blogger Marianna Podgurskaya to claim the attack was staged. The false claims have been thoroughly debunked.
Beyond Mariupol, Ukraine’s decentralized cable internet has held up relatively well to Russia’s attacks—many people are still able to access the internet without issue. But in cities where power has been lost and infrastructure targeted with bombings, little can be done. On February 26, Mariupol internet service provider Trinity posted a photo to Facebook of its engineers using generators to power the company’s systems
“I was stuck for six or seven days without any news or any provable information,” says Alisa Liddell, a recruiter with tech company Beetroot, who lived in Mariupol. Liddell left Mariupol at the start of the war—her friends and colleagues are still in the city—and moved about 20 miles down the coast. Even outside Mariupol, there was no connectivity. “We were one of the first who lost the power and couldn’t power up our community,” Liddell says.
From the beach in the village of Bilosarais’ka Kosa, Liddell and her father could see and hear Russian warships attacking her home. When a small group of villagers decided to take a generator to a mobile tower and brute-force it back online in early March, Liddell says, she was able to get back online for around two hours. She immediately grasped at the chance to call her sister in Prague and work colleagues. The next day, while walking on the beach, the generator powered up again, her sister told her a humanitarian corridor allowing people out of the region would open that day. Russian troops have reportedly shelled these corridors. But still, it was a way out.
“It was 20 minutes to prepare, gather up our things—documents, some basic clothing—and just go,” Liddell says. The whole time, she says, she didn’t know if the journey was going to be safe, as they were “blind” to information. She traveled with her father across the country before separating from him and catching a train to the border with Poland, her poodle, JoJo, by her side. Liddell has since traveled to Prague to live with her sister. On her birthday, Liddell saw pictures of her Mariupol apartment completely destroyed.