As the Russian invasion of Ukraine reached its second month, the issue of refugees has been raised in numerous news stories. The Ukrainian city, Mariupol, was besieged by Russian troops, resulting in the escape of Ukrainian residents to neighboring countries.
The number of residents who fled the country reached 4 million this week, most of whom found shelter in Poland, a bordering country. Others went to Hungary, Romania, and other western countries.
On March 19, the Mariupol city council accused Russia of “forcibly” deporting the residents of the Ukrainian city to Russia. However, the information was not confirmed considering the absence of foreign journalists in the area.
Following the accusations, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda-Thomas Greenfield said that the accounts were “disturbing” and “unconscionable”, but the US hadn’t yet confirmed the allegations.
The news spread throughout the world: while some news headlines accused Russia of deporting Ukrainians against their will, others considered Russia as another shelter for the refugees who fled there willingly. A few others highlighted the fact that Russia was “accused” and not necessarily “guilty”.
Al-Jazeera, for instance, a Qatari newspaper, quoted the words of Thomas Greenfield to show the seriousness of the situation:
As mentioned earlier, the allegations had not yet been confirmed by the United States when this statement was made.
Paris Match, a French weekly magazine, also took part in the controversy. On March 25, it published an article on its website, calling out for the “mass deportation” to Russia. The headline also included a quote from President Volodymyr Zelensky who praised the Ukrainians for their “heroic” defense.
Yet, many newspapers used words such as “claimed” and “accused” to refer to the source of the information which is, in this case, the Mariupol city council.
It is important to indicate that headlines may sometimes be misleading although often followed by further information to clarify the facts. Unfortunately, there is a higher likelihood of the reader only retaining the information mentioned in the headline.
The Issue of Ukrainian Refugees a Few Days After the Russian Invasion
The Ukrainian residents fled their homes from the beginning of the invasion. Several newspapers covered the stories revolving around the matter, including DW (Deutsche Welle), a German newspaper, which wrote about humanitarian corridors leading to the Russian territory. It stated that Ukraine had rejected the corridors and considered them as “immoral”.
On March 7, the Reuters newspaper published an article about Moscow’s permission for Ukrainians to seek shelter in Russia.
There is a striking contrast between the words mentioned on the above headline and the ones on the previously mentioned headlines, moving from “Moscow will let” to “Russia forcibly deports“.
The Egyptian Al-Shourouk published an article on March 21 about the Ukrainian refugees. The word it chose to use was “إجلاء” (evacuation) when mentioning the refugees’ move to Russia.
Within the article, the Russian Defense Ministry was said to have claimed that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had filed requested to flee to Russia. The source of the information is the Russia Today website.