Ukraine bombed a Donetsk hotel full of journalists – here’s what it felt like to be inside at the time

Another attack from Kiev has hit central Donetsk, targeting a funeral and a hotel where numerous reporters stay and work

Photo: Eva K Bartlett

Aug 4, 2022, RT.com (*blog version longer than originally published at RT)

-Eva K Bartlett

At 10:13 am Thursday, Ukraine began shelling central Donetsk. There were five powerful blasts in the space of ten minutes. The last explosion blew out my hotel’s ground-floor glass, including a sitting room – where journalists often congregate before and after going out to do field reporting, and where until less than ten minutes prior, I’d been sitting working on my laptop – and the lobby, which I had passed through a minute earlier. A cameraman’s assistant who was there at the time of that fifth explosion suffered a concussion from the force of the blast.

A woman walking outside the building was killed, as were at least four others, including an 11 year old rising-star ballerina, her grandmother, and her teacher (a world-renowned former ballerina).

Donetsk Telegram channels are filled with videos locals have taken, of the dead, the injured and the damage, and of grief-stricken people. One such hard-to-watch Telegram post (warning: graphic footage) features a man in shock at the gruesome sight of the bodies of his murdered wife and grandchild on a street two blocks from the hotel.

First estimates placed the number at at least ten, among them two ambulance workers: a paramedic and a doctor.

Reading the news, you have the luxury of graphic image warnings and the choice not to look at the pictures and videos of the carnage that occurred on Thursday, as well as over the past eight years of Ukraine’s war on Donbass. The people here on the ground don’t get a warning, or a choice as to whether they will see the mutilated remains of a loved-one or stranger. As uncomfortable as it is to see such footage, it does need to be shown if the world is to know the truth of what’s going on in Donbass, to give voice to the locals, killed and terrorized by Ukrainian forces as Western corporate media looks elsewhere or covers up these crimes. 

Chronology of the bomb strikes

When the shelling started, I was in my room editing footage from the previous day – from the aftermath of another Ukrainian shelling of a Donetsk district.

You wouldn’t know it from most Western media coverage but explosions are so common here that I didn’t think much of the blast other than it was louder than usual and the car alarms were going off.

Seven minutes later, another explosion, much louder and much closer. From the window, smoke could be seen rising to the north, probably 200 meters away. This would have been right near the Donetsk Opera and Ballet Theatre, where the funeral ceremony for Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Colonel Olga Kachura, killed yesterday, was commencing.

A minute later, another loud blast sent me running from the room, which faced the direction of incoming artillery. Luckily, the only damage ended up being a broken window.

Downstairs, journalists who had been in the hotel and others who had been outside ready to go out reporting, took shelter in the hallway for the time being, ready to run to the basement if things escalated, telling me that the last shelling hit 50 metres from the hotel.

One told me he had been preparing to go film and was about 10 meters away from where the last shell struck. “I believe they were trying to target the funeral. And journalists also,” he said. He also said there was a woman outside who had lost a leg, and that she was probably dead by now.

I left the lobby briefly and during that time, the fifth strike hit, blowing out the windows and killing a woman just outside the hotel. Journalists in the lobby suffered from the pressure of the blast. A cameraman’s assistant got a concussion from it. It was by pure luck that I was not in the lobby.

I was back inside the hotel, sitting in a hallway, beginning to stitch together my footage, to publish it, when the shelling resumed. Journalists still outside ran back in. After another four blasts, the shelling died down. Meanwhile, Telegram was filled with videos people had sent from Donetsk streets. A man slumped dead near a bus stop. Three civilians slaughtered on a sidewalk just two streets from the hotel, a man shrieking his grief at the horrific site of his wife and granddaughter in pieces.

After the dust had settled and it seemed Ukraine had stopped its shelling, we went outside to document the damage, and the carnage. The poor women killed by the shelling was by this point covered with a hotel curtain, blood stains around her body.

It’s safe to assume that Kiev’s forces’ intended target was the funeral service for Colonel Kachura, aiming perhaps to send a message to the DPR military and the civilians who support it. While that would be egregious by itself, it is likely that a hotel housing journalists was not just ‘collateral damage,’ either. 

It is common for aggressors like Ukraine or Israel or terrorists in Syria to target journalists. In 2009, as it waged war on the civilians of Gaza, Israel repeatedly shelled a media building I was in.

In May 2021, as it resumed intensely bombing Gaza, Israel destroyed two Gaza media buildings housing 20 media outlets.

Ukraine routinely persecutes, censors, imprisons, tortures, and targets media personnel, putting us on kill lists.

Kiev’s forces know a lot of journalists stay at this hotel for its central location and strong wifi. Many frequently do their live reports from outside the hotel. And those staying there, as well as in other central Donetsk neighbourhoods, have been loudly reporting on Ukraine’s showering of Donetsk with the insidious, internationally-prohibited ‘butterfly’ anti-personnel mines of late – the latest, until today, in the list of Kiev’s war crimes. These explosives are designed to rip off feet and legs, and Ukraine has repeatedly fired rockets containing them, intentionally dropping them on civilian areas in Donetsk and other Donbass cities.

After the explosions rang out in central Donetsk Thursday, Emergency Services arrived at the scene and, following a period of calm, journalists went out to document the damage and the dead. The woman I’d been told about lay in a pool of blood, covered with what appeared to be a curtain from one of the blown-out windows.

The calm didn’t last long. Ukraine soon resumed shelling, and journalists outside ran back inside as we received another four attacks. “It’s like a common thing, they shoot one place and shoot it again. So we’re in the middle of that process right now,” a Serbian guy near me said.  The chief of a local Emergency Services headquarters told me Kiev also makes triple strikes, not only double.

It is said that Ukraine used NATO-standard 155mm caliber weapons in today’s attack. If that is true, this is another instance of Ukraine using Western-supplied weapons to slaughter and maim civilians in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

If by bombing a hotel full of journalists Kiev wanted to intimidate them away from reporting on Ukraine’s war crimes, it won’t work. Most journalists reporting from on the ground here do so because, unlike the crocodile tears of the West for conflicts they create, we actually care about the lives of people here.

RELATED LINKS:

Twitter facilitates cyber terrorism and NATO-proxy war crimes in Ukraine [Vanessa Beeley’s recent article on Louise Mensch’s call, via Twitter, for my assassination…which Twitter does not deem to be in violation of its bogus “standards”]

5 thoughts on “Ukraine bombed a Donetsk hotel full of journalists – here’s what it felt like to be inside at the time

  1. I’m glad to see your post here. I was beginning to worry. Thank you for your work, and thank you double for your courage.

    I have a request, though. I wish you would stop sending people to pro-censorship Y*utube for the videos you link to. I do not watch videos on pro-censorship Y*utube and never will again, because I don’t want them to get one single micro€ or micro$ in ad revenue off of me. If you have an account on https://odysee.com please link to that instead. If not, please get https://odysee.com/@RT:fd to host the videos you want people to see, and link to those.

    And please forgive me for bringing up another pet peeve. I support your advocacy, but I shut down my P*ypal account about ten years ago when they shut down Wikileaks’ account and outright stole their money. I’m both surprised that they haven’t stolen your money, and disturbed that you would encourage people to let P*ypal to take a cut of the donations meant for you. I not only will never let them make another micro€ off of me, but I would have to hold my nose just to donate at all to anyone who has a link to them as one of the donation options.

    In any case, I read every word you write, and will continue to do so, even if I have to skip the videos I can’t/won’t access.

  2. Thankyou, Eva. Your courage and integrity are not only humbling but a shining example on behalf of humanity in this total, ongoing war against human beings which is being waged by a self-appointed sociopathic elite. What has happened to the West? And how has this been allowed and enabled against the will of the people, our values, ethics and sanity?

  3. To witness the stark inhumanity of war is a burden that can never be lifted from the psyche. Over fifty years later I still find myself on the edge . I cope… and I love. Blessings and healing to you, Eva. You are one of the great truth tellers.

  4. Cannot help but remember the Horror of the US bombing of the Hotel Palestine in 2003 Baghdad ..where most of the journalists were staying during the beginning of the S&A invasion of Iraq then…thank you as ever for your courage and presence reporting on the reality of this tragic latest war. Be safe and well…PEACE!

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