Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay has shared more details about being shot by Russian forces in Ukraine and has said it was an unrepeatable “miracle” that nobody was killed in the ambush.
Speaking at a panel event to mark World Press Freedom day, Ramsay (pictured, second from right) said video of the attach on his team was almost not shown by Sky News amid fears it may seem like “navel-gazing” to report on your own team when many other civilians had faced similar experiences.
Ramsay and his team were some of the first foreign reporters fired upon by Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine when they were attacked on their return from a day of reporting near the then-frontline in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on 28 February.
He has since been recovering in the UK and he is scheduled to head back to report from Ukraine in the coming weeks.
“Dominique, my producer, identified a town that would be a good place to go to. A place that wasn’t known to any of us then called Bucha – that now is synonymous with death,” Ramsay said.
“Bucha, which started the day as relatively peaceful, suddenly became a battlefield once again… We reached the conclusion by about four in the afternoon that there was no point continuing on.
“The roads we had used to get there were impassable because the battlefield had moved so quickly so we had to find another way back into Kyiv.”
He added: “We stopped at a checkpoint and were told to go down this road… We reached a deserted checkpoint and suddenly a shot hit the car. We pulled to a stop. Then the car was targeted by machine guns.”
He went on: “We were convinced this was a mistake at this point. We thought it was a Ukrainian checkpoint that had just got it wrong.
“But what we’ve talked a lot about since is it would have been the first professional checkpoint of the dozens and dozens we’d seen all day. We realised this was an ambush [by Russian forces].”
“We all started shouting we were journalists, we were hoping that it would lead to the end of the shooting but it intensified the shooting. It got very very difficult to imagine any of us getting out,” he recalled.
“This was not an armoured vehicle just a normal family saloon. It wasn’t marked as press because the Ukrainian authorities had told us saboteurs are driving around saying they are foreign media.”
“I was pretty convinced I was going to die. Then I was hit. I was wondering what it was going to be like. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought,” he continued.
“The miracle part of it is that all of us got out of the vehicle… It’s unheard of. You could probably never replicate it again… You wouldn’t think just one person would get actually hit.”
Ramsay also told the panel that in the aftermath of the attack there was an extensive debate in the Sky newsroom as to whether to air the footage or whether it could seem like “navel-gazing” to cover the attack.
He added: “Sky thought long and hard about whether we should run this story. We had to discuss it with them once we had gotten ourselves out because this was something that was happening to ordinary people every day.
“Those attacks on civilians continue now. There was a family killed the other day… There was nothing exceptional about what happened to us, what was exceptional is that Richie Mockler [his cameraman] rolled on it all and you saw what it’s like when an ambush takes place from the inside.”
Ramsay made the comments as part of an expert panel organised by journalism freedom charity RSF to mark world press freedom day as well as the launch of its new World Press Freedom Index 2022.
The report warned that a combination of polarisation, or the “Fox News-isation” of media, alongside online fake news and propaganda has had a “disastrous effect” around the world on press freedom.
The UK’s placement in the world press freedom rankings rose from 33rd in 2021 to 24th in the most recent report.
Only eight countries have a “good” rating in the 2022 ranking: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Portugal and Costa Rica.
The launch event panel also featured contributions from Hong Kong Free Press editor Kris Cheng, RSF director of operations and campaigns Rebecca Vincent and Novaya Gazeta UK correspondent Eugenya Dillendorf.
Novaya Gazeta, described by Dillendorf as “the last independent newspaper in Russia”, was forced to shut down its domestic operations amid increasing censorship from the Russian government. A sister title Novaya Gazeta Europe was relaunched last month in Latvia.
Dillendorf told the panel: “We can’t even name the war a war, it’s a special military operation. Journalism as a profession has been almost banned in Russia because reporters face 15 years in prison for ‘fake news’.”
On Novaya Gazeta’s closure, she added: “This is a usual story, it’s not just about us. They’ve banned nearly 2,000 sites while the number of banned materials is in the dozens of thousands.”
She went on: “The story of Russia has no end. If you just think of my newspaper, six journalists have been murdered since 2000.”