Women make food for the recruits near the recruitment center
Women make food for the recruits near the recruitment center
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Checkpoints around the city of Kyiv

Ynet reporter in Ukraine held at gunpoint, mistaken for a Russian spy

Ron Ben-Yishai travels to the warzone on the outskirts of Kyiv and after he's identified as an Israeli reporter, finds a portable military kitchen, a makeshift recruitment center, and the few Ukrainian volunteers who compare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Russian-Ukrainian one

Ron Ben-Yishai, Gil Yohanan |
Updated: 02.27.22, 15:07
The Ukrainian militias headed toward us, two of them loaded their weapons, as they were slowly approaching our car. When they got close, one of them shoved the barrel close to my photographer Gil Yohanan's nose and said in Russian: "You are Russians."
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • Although our car had a clear sign "Press", written both in Latin and Cyrillic letters, from my seat, I could feel the intense smell of alcohol, as I was shouting in English "we are Israelis, don't shoot."
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    חיילים אוקראינים בגבול
    חיילים אוקראינים בגבול
    Checkpoints around the city of Kyiv
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    But none of them seemed to understand what I was saying, and then our local fixer Rafael Yoha raised his hands and said in Russian: "We are not Russians, we are Israelis."
    The soldier standing in front of the car loaded his weapon anyway, so I reached for my Israeli passport as then their commander arrived and ended the crisis.
    We showed him our press credentials, he calmed down and asked "why did you take pictures of us?" as he was pointing at the camera and wanted to take it. But Gil hid the footage and pretended he didn't understand him.
    After things cooled down, before they let us go, they explained that in the neighborhood we were in, northeast of Kyiv, there were battles with the Russian special forces, the Spetsnaz, who sometimes impersonate Ukrainians and use local collaborators, so that is why the stopped us.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    תושבים אוקראינים מחכים בתור לבית המרקחת בקייב
    תושבים אוקראינים מחכים בתור לבית המרקחת בקייב
    A line outside a local pharmacy
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    Pointing a camera towards Ukrainian troops is the last thing you will want to do in Kyiv if you value your life.
    Their fear is certainly understandable. The Russians are surrounding Kyiv, but not with tanks or other armored forces. They are there with paratroopers and special forces personnel who arrived by choppers, or from the airports near the city.
    The Ukrainians managed to shoot down one of Russia's cargo planes full of soldiers, probably killing dozens, if not hundreds of Russian paratroopers.
    Every now and then, we hear explosions and gunshot fire, and it is very hard to understand where they are coming from or whose shooting.
    The city of Kyiv is full of barricades and checkpoints, and many soldiers also take cover under the bridges, just like the group we encountered .
    The Ukrainian army and the territorial defense volunteers were given a strict order - not to allow any camera to film the area since it will give away their positions and will provide intelligence for the Russians.
    We continued to a poor neighborhood of the capital, where most of the residents stayed because they had nowhere to go, as one of them explained to us.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Women make food for the recruits near the recruitment center
    Women make food for the recruits near the recruitment center
    Women make food for the recruits near the recruitment center
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    Most of the gas stations were closed, there was only one pharmacy that was open, and both had very long lines.
    We spotted thousands of people, mostly men, standing in groups, and we noticed a portable military kitchen in the woods, which was handing out hot food to a long line of recruits and reservists soldiers.
    We approached them with the camera and they immediately surrounded us and made it very clear, using threatening movements, that we were not allowed to film.
    We tried to go back to our car, but they blocked our way and held us until their commanding officer arrived. We tried to explain to him that we are reporters from Israel.
    It is very possible that when the captain noticed my white hair, he realized that I could not be a disguised Russian soldier.
    After half an hour, someone at the headquarters approved our request to film the recruitment center and the thousands there who were receiving equipment and taken in trucks to where they would be stationed and given their weapons.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Ron Ben-Yishai stands near a Ukrainian recruitment center
    Ron Ben-Yishai stands near a Ukrainian recruitment center
    Ron Ben-Yishai stands near a Ukrainian recruitment center
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    The recruitment center was located in an open field. Occasionally trucks passed carrying people who were going to the front line some 4-3 kilometers away. All the new recruits were wearing yellow ribbons on their arms to indicate that they were volunteers. others would then stop what they were doing and clap the recruits.
    The commander allowed us to film as long as the surrounding buildings were not seen in the footage and they could not be identified. This was to prevent the Russians from launching guided missiles towards the recruitment center.
    The women in the military kitchen, in the half an hour that we were there, handed out hundreds of hot dishes and drinks to the recruits.
    Among them, we met Anton, who was in full camouflage clothes, including a vest and a helmet, probably American. Anton didn't want to give us his full name, but agreed to tell us with his good English that he was a lawyer.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    אנטון, התגייס למילואים למלחמה עם רוסיה
    אנטון, התגייס למילואים למלחמה עם רוסיה
    Anton, the Ukrainian recruit
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    He heard that we were Israelis and came to tell us that he was a fan of Israel's female Prime Minister Golda Meir. He said that she was "the most powerful leader in the world." I did not argue with him.
    He went on to say that he admired the Israelis and that as we oppose the Palestinians, the Ukrainians oppose the Russians who want to take their independence from them. He spoke incessantly, showed a lot of affection for Israel, expressed outrage at the Russians, and our conversation was probably understood by some of the people around us, who nodded in agreement.
    It seems like being an Israeli in Kyiv these days, is being on the right side of the conflict. The Ukrainians simply equate our continuous war with the Palestinians and our stand against our enemies, with their surprisingly determined fight against the Russians.
    As we were wrapping up, we were told to evacuate quickly because of Intelligence that Russian troops were parachuting on the outskirts of the neighborhood.
    Having already learned that it was not worth arguing with the Ukrainian commanders, we drove away.
    First published: 15:02, 02.27.22
    Talkbacks for this article 0