“My heart is with the people of Ukraine”
Ruth Smeeth is inspired by the collective bravery of women in the face of Putin's tyranny and violence
11 Mar 22

Protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

I had planned to write this week on International Women’s Day. I wanted to feature the female war journalists who are on the frontline as the artillery falls in Ukraine. The brave protesters in Russia who have made their views on the war clear, in spite of the fear of detention. The Russian female scientists who added their names to a joint letter in the academic periodical Trinity Option – causing the publication to be blocked by the Russian state censor. I wanted to write of the amazing women in Myanmar and Hong Kong and Afghanistan and Belarus who keep the dream of democracy alive.

Thankfully these brave women are still fighting the good fight. Inspiring us every day.

And as important as their stories are – and we will keep covering them at Index both in the magazine and on our website, it’s the faces on our media which are dominating my thoughts.

I feel shell-shocked, unable to turn off the news, unable to look away from the devastation being wrought by the Russian military on innocent civilians. Of course, we only know what is happening in Ukraine because we are lucky enough to have independent journalism and media plurality. And as much as I keep holding onto that – it’s the images of the shelled hospital in Mariupol, the pregnant women stumbling from the wreckage, the children sobbing as they looked for help, that I cannot move on from.

War is ugly and the innocent are always caught up in the horror. This has been true since the beginning of time. But there are some images we never thought we would see again on the streets of Europe. Children dying of starvation, residential areas targeted, Holocaust survivors once again exposed to war and fleeing their homes. War crimes happening less than 1,750 miles from where I type.

For those of us who have followed closely the war in Syria, none of this should come as a surprise. And it doesn’t but that does not make the realities on our screens any easier. Russian misinformation, propaganda and lies is adding insult to injury – I won’t share their appalling statements on the events in Mariupol, as their lies need no audience but never have I been more grateful for a free press and to live in a democratic society.

So, as we mark International Women’s Day this week my heart is with the people of Ukraine. I am inspired by their collective bravery in the face of Putin’s tyranny and violence.  I grieve with them as they face the reality of war and I stand with them against the lies and deceit of the Russian Federation.

By Ruth Anderson

CEO at Index On Censorship