ZERNO (The Grain)

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Ukraine

Publishing organisation: Crimea Media Platform

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-10-17

Language: Ukrainian, English

Authors: Osman Pashayev, Ernes Sarykhalil, Eldar khalilov, Muslim Umerov


Osman Pashayev is a Ukrainian Crimean Tatar journalist and producer. He started his career as a news presenter on the Crimean Tatar edition of the state “Krym” TV company. In 2001 he moved to Kyiv and worked with various TV channels including STB, Inter, 5 Kanal, NTN, and TVi. In 2011-2014 he worked on the Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR in Simferopol. In 2014 he founded Crimean Open Channel with the purpose of covering events in the occupied Crimea. In 2017 Osman Pashayev, Muslim Umerov and Alim Abdulkhairov established Crimea Media Platform and UA:SOUTH as its project in February 2022.

Project description:

The documentary “ZERNO” collected the pursuit story of Russian marauder ships in the Turkish seaports. UA:SOUTH journalists located in Turkiye, followed the ships that were illegally unloading grain and other goods from the occupied territories of Ukraine in bulk in the seaports of Iskendurun, Bandirma, Derindge, Samsun, Karasu, Sinop, Istanbul, and Izmir, asking the local authorities to provide the necessary documentation to prove that unloading of these ships was legal there. Due to this investigation, attention to this topic was brought, awareness was raised and the vast majority of the big Turkish transport companies stopped cooperating with Russian ships.

Impact reached:

On July 8th, 2022 Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Turkey, Lavrov and Chavushoglu met without Ukraine participating on the subject of the Ukrainian grain stolen by Russia. The UA:SOUTH journalist, Muslim Umerov, asked Lavrov a question about what other stolen things from Ukraine apart from the grain Russia plans to sell, which Lavrov avoided answering and asked a question back (in his typical manner). The video of Muslim challenging Lavrov got millions of views among YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, facebook and other social media users.

Our July investigation of the stolen Ukrainian grain made UA:SOUTH famous among all the Ukrainian and many international publishers, such as Spanish El Pais, British 4th Channel, American CNN, Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and Czech Current Time, that used our footage. The UA South journalists visited 8 Turkish seaports where the Ukrainian looted grain was delivered by Russian ships and we were the only media that had the photo and video proofs of this economic crime of Russia.

Techniques/technologies used:

Our video production team used motion graphhics and infographics to better convey the information in the documentary. We also used drones to make videos of the ships with the stolen from Ukraine goods when we couldn’t get access to the ports.

Context about the project:

Russia destroys Ukraine on all levels, but only the physical level of destruction gets the most attention for obvious reasons cause it’s a matter of people’s lives. However, the economic destruction of Ukraine by Russia deserves close monitoring, too, and the world needs to know the ugly and dirty ways that Russia uses to pursue its goals. Russians hide behind the narrative “Russia doesn’t want people in Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, and Somalia to die from hunger” to keep stealing and trading the looted grain from the southern territories of Ukraine they occupied and pretend they are now “theirs”. Our documentary raised awareness among the Turkish authorities and our western audience, however, Russia keeps finding new ways how to fool the system and keep the illegal trade going. We need to bring more attention to this problem and help Ukraine to stop not only being bombed but also being robbed by Russia.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

We believe that our documentary can motivate other journalists to view the Ukrainian-Russian war from all the angles and cover all the aspects of it.

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