Nolan Peterson, a senior editor at Coffee or Die who has lived in Kyiv for eight years, spoke at a DC think tank conference on his front-line reporting on Russia’s invasion. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson.
Inside the bomb shelters, Nolan Peterson remembers the cell phones.
“Outside you could hear the sounds of battle. And it was strangely quiet inside that underground space, even though it was crammed with hundreds of people,” Peterson said in recent remarks at a Washington think tank. “But there was one sound that stood out from the silence. It came from people’s smartphones as they listened, over and over, to a speech by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declaring that he would not leave the city.”
“In that moment, I knew that Russia had already lost.”
Nolan Peterson, a senior editor and war correspondent for Coffee or Die, in a trench system built by the Ukrainian army in the months leading up to the 2022 invasion. Peterson has reported from Ukraine since 2014. Photo by Nolan Peterson.
He spoke in Washington on a “Keeping Ukraine on the Path to Victory” panel at the Hudson Institute, an influential foreign policy think tank, during a trip to the US in late February. The speech was carried by C-SPAN.
That underlying national direction, Peterson said, underpins the war effort.
“They have a very clear understanding of what they want, and I think that fuels their determination to stand up and fight,” Peterson said.
Peterson spoke on a panel with Melinda Haring, a director at Superhumans Center, a medical relief organization, and Paul Massaro, a senior policy advisor for countercorruption and sanctions for the Helsinki Commission.
In a follow-on discussion to his remarks, Peterson discussed his prewar coverage for Coffee or Die on Ukrainian civilians training for war.
“I remember being out there watching them run around in the snow, and I was looking at them, and I was just like, ‘Are they really going to do it?’” Peterson said. “‘When there’s a Russian tank rolling down the street, are you really going to have the courage to step out and throw a Molotov cocktail at it, to shoot back?’ And they did.
“It was quite remarkable to see these people walk that walk.”
Peterson’s full remarks on his year living and reporting in Ukraine after Russia’s full-scale invasion are available on C-SPAN’s website.
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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