Death and Twitter: Reports from Ukraine

Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

On May 11, 2014, the day that the self-proclaimed Donetsk National Republic held a referendum [Global Voices report] deciding its status vis-à-vis Ukraine (a referendum which most certainly will not be recognized by the Ukrainian government), Russian journalist Ilya Azar reported on Twitter that members of Ukraine's newfangled National Guard had fired on civilian bystanders in Krasnoarmeysk. The tweets included several graphic photos, so click through at your own risk.

Just now in front of me the National Guardsmen killed one and wounded another in Krasnoarmeysk

This is a man killed in Krasnoarmeysk. Unarmed people were simply standing next to the city council building which was taken over by the National Guard.

Another man was wounded in the chest. The guardsmen left in four cars, after haphazardly shooting at unarmed people.

Ukrainian government! Either send people to shoot gunners in Slavyansk, or take arms away from the Guard. Why shoot an unarmed crowd?!

Azar's tweets are all the more damning, because they come from a man with a very sympathetic view of the Maidan cause and a journalist whose coverage of Ukraine led to the dissolution [Global Voices report] of's editorial team. Azar also has no love for Donetsk separatists — his tongue in cheek reporting has recently landed him in hot water [Global Voices report] when local militias distributed his photographs calling him a “provocateur” who must be “dealt with.”

Maybe it was this combination of factors that caused his tweets to go viral and attract so much vitriol from both sides of the conflict, that he later tweeted that he will “stop reading replies” to his tweets. Fellow journalist Oleg Kashin responded by calling [ru] what happened “remarkable journalism.” With just a few tweets [ru] Azar “caused a public opinion explosion in two countries.” This, argues [ru] Kashin, is a problem with modern media: “writing an article after this is an empty and useless formality so that you can get paid.” In this world of attention spans too short for nuance, perhaps Kashin is right.

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