Woman-led ‘Dattalion’ in Ukraine documents Russian invasion with citizen videos: ‘Show the world the horrors’
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As Ukraine continues to resist the Russian invasion, citizens across the country describe themselves as more united than ever and eager to help in any way they can, including in what a Ukrainian named Lily calls the “digital war”.
Her group, called “Dattalion” and led by some of Ukraine’s top professional women, does not shoot down planes, but rather fights a different kind of battle documenting the bloody war, day in and day out.
One of the Dattalion leaders, who goes by “Mariya” instead of her real name for security reasons, told Fox News Digital that the mission is simple: tell the world the truth about what’s going on in Ukraine through the power of images.
“Basically, we are fighting against Russia with data, information, and we want to show the world what the Russian army is doing in Ukraine, what it is doing to our children, what it is doing to our elderly, what she makes our homes do,” Mariya said. “It’s a database mainly of videos but also of photos taken by civilian Ukrainians, ordinary people with their smartphones.”
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The Dattalion, a combination of the words “Data Battalion”, was founded on February 27, just three days after Russia launched its invasion, and it has so far uploaded more than 1,000 videos and photos of ordinary citizens. in its database. Updated several times a day, it is organized by day and region and provides the date and locations of videos and images sent to them from the war, such as the bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol last week, bloodied civilians by Russian bombing and children. be rescued and evacuated. The team has regional groups working to verify that the images are authentic.
Lily, who recently returned to Ukraine from Poland after crossing the border with a truckload of humanitarian supplies, said Russia was trying to “deceive the whole world” with its propaganda machine, which blamed “neo-Nazis of the violence and claimed Ukraine was responsible for a recent Russian bombardment of Kharkiv that killed dozens of civilians.
“It’s very important,” Lily said of the Dattalion’s work. “All the information that comes from Russia is all fake… They are trying to deceive the whole world, and they have already done it with their people. That’s why we want to spread the truth in the world, and the video and information is our weapon in fact, and video and publications, marketing campaigns are our tools, so that’s what we know how to do.”
Given that it was formed just days after the invasion began last month, Lily said it quickly became a cohesive organization. It has more than 100 volunteers and is growing day by day. He has an active social media presence and encourages journalists, politicians and others around the world to access his files. During this time, members of the Dattalion faced hacking attacks and personal threats, in addition to the immense stress of having their country invaded and fearing the deaths of loved ones.
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“We never looked for this but when we looked at our volunteers, why are our volunteers so passionate about this project because every day they lose something and they want to show the world the horrors,” Mariya said.
Lily said she often cried before editing the footage she was reviewing. Mariya became emotional as she recounted the effect of the war on her own family. From Friday, the The United Nations human rights office said it recorded 42 children dead among the 579 civilians killed, with another 54 children injured among the 1,002 civilians injured.
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“I never imagined in my life that me, my family or anyone would go through this,” she said. “I could never imagine my children hearing loud sounds and shaking.”
The cataloging effort is their way of contributing and making sure the Ukraine crisis is crystal clear to the rest of the world. From data collection and typing to video editing and communications, there are a variety of roles for members of the Dattalion, many of whom before the invasion held commercial and other leadership positions in Ukraine.
Another member, calling herself “Marina” and currently in Austria, said she felt “guilty” for not being back in Ukraine, but was delighted with the sense of national unity following the invasion.
“You want to help your country,” she told Fox News Digital. “I believe that never, never in the history of Ukraine have we ever felt so united, we have never felt so in love with a country… [If] you had a bad relationship with a [fellow Ukrainian], everything is in the past. You are just united to do something to help.
“The only weapon we have is our MacBooks or the internet and our smartphones. This is how we fight, how we help the world to tell the truth. It’s painful. It’s painful to see what’s going on You can’t just sit idly by, and you can’t just think about yourself right now. This is where we want to live, and everyone is trying to bring even one small piece. What we do at Dattalion is not a small piece. It’s a huge piece.
Several members told Fox News Digital they want US and NATO allies to “close the skies,” the term used by the Ukrainians to implement a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace. So far, the United States has been reluctant to take this step because shooting down a Russian plane could trigger a hot war ensnaring the world’s nuclear powers.
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“We will fight until the end, but we need help, and the best thing the world should do is shut down the sky,” Mariya said. “We will do all the others. We will fight back, and we will crush them, and we will fight for our land. We just need to protect the civilians.”
The Dattalion site offers a countdown clock of the length of the war since the invasion of Russia last month, but the “digital war” could continue after the end of the kinetic part of the conflict. In addition to continuing to keep the world informed of conditions on the ground in some of the bombed Ukrainian cities, the database could also be a tool in the future to prove war crimes and atrocities committed by Russian forces, say the members.
“The fact is, we’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which under the Geneva Conventions would constitute a war crime,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. last week.
Price’s comment comes after several widely reported instances of Russian troops appearing to commit war crimes, including bombing raid motherhood, which the Kremlin has denied, and murder fleeing civilians.
As more footage arrives from Kyiv, Irpin, Kharkiv and elsewhere in this war-torn country, the Dattalion will continue its hard work.
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“I feel a bit guilty for only having two hands, one head and two legs,” Marina said.
Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller and Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.