A picture containing outdoor, road, sky, street Description automatically generated
Russian troops in Henichesk. [Photo courtesy of Sonja Vandenende]

[This is a report from Sonja Vandenende, a Dutch journalist who was embedded with Russian troops in southeastern Ukraine. Previously, Sonja reported on the ground in Syria for CAM. Her reporting substantiates that of Patrick Lancaster, a Russian-speaking U.S. Navy veteran whose reporting on the war in Donbass for eight years is respected by investigative journalists. CAM’s mission is to bring to your attention alternative narratives gleaned by eyewitness accounts—even if they could be misconstrued as pro-Russian.Editors]

Last week I was embedded with the Russian army and visited two towns in southeastern Ukraine. The first town was called Henichesk, a port city along the Sea of Azov in Kherson Oblast (province) of southern Ukraine, bordering on Crimea.

The Russian army, patrolling the city, went with us—the embedded journalists—for protection. But actually the protection was not really needed; the people in Henichesk, at least the majority with whom I spoke, were very happy that the Russian army was there.

The people that I spoke to all said the same thing: They felt protected from the criminal gangs, with their Nazi ideology, who raged the towns. They in turn hoped that Ukraine will prosper again.

Henichesk Strait - Wikipedia
[Source: wikipedia.org]

Since the coup d’état of 2014, the economy of Ukraine has become very bad, according to many citizens in Henichesk.

I could see that people were standing in line to get money from ATM machines outside the banks, money which was barely there.

At the market, the food was scarce. The Russian army is providing humanitarian aid, which they do in every village and town, liberated from these criminal gangs. This is how many Ukrainians call them.

Sonja Vandenende with Henichesk resident. [Photo courtesy of Sonja Vandenende]

Numerous villagers in Henichesk told me that, as the Russians entered their town, they left everything intact. I heard this stated many times. No damage, no dead, no wounded. Most people, they said, are happy that the Russians were there.

A picture containing person, outdoor, road

Description automatically generated
[Photo courtesy of Sonja Vandenende]

The town of Henichesk was undamaged after the Russian army came. People were rushing on the streets to do their shopping or just talking and socializing on the street. The population was very diverse. It included ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars. They have churches and mosques.

According to residents, before the 2014 coup d’état,[1] the people lived in harmony. Many Tatars originating from Crimea live in Henichesk. They have been allowed to go back to Crimea since Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president.

A picture containing sky, outdoor, person

Description automatically generated
[Photo courtesy of Sonja Vandenende]

Propaganda has been spread on the Wikipedia page of Henichesk, stating the following: “On 24 February 2022, Henichesk was captured by the Russian Army in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was where the famous incident occurred where an old woman confronted Russian soldiers and said ‘Put sunflower seeds in your pockets so they grow on Ukraine soil when you die,’ as well as the death of Vitalii Shakun blowing up a bridge to stop their advance.”

Vitali Shakun
Vitalii Shakun [Source: indiatimes.com]

Indeed, Shakun tried to blow up the bridge connecting Crimea with southern Ukraine. But they neglect to tell that he was not from southern Ukraine, but from Lviv, in the western part of Ukraine. He was also a combat engineer with the Ukrainian Army. The damage his explosives caused to the bridge was actually minor and the bridge is still passable. It is a pity generally that boys (Shakun was born in 1996) should die for a false ideology, by blowing up a bridge without success.

[Source: indiatimes.com]

Fact Versus Fiction

Western propaganda claims that the Russian army is besieging towns and that the population is starving. From my observation, the latter was not true in Henichesk or in the next town called Melitopol, which I also visited (to be discussed in a future article).[2]

The Western countries are pouring in weapons, most of them old Soviet weapons into Ukraine to shoot at the “evil Russians,” and imposing sanctions. Nothing positive is being done to help the long suffering people of Ukraine.

[Photo courtesy Sonja Vandenvende]
Waiting for humanitarian aid being distributed by the Russian army. [Photo courtesy of Sonja Vandenende]

The Zelensky regime is presented as a moral beacon in the West, but has banned opposition parties and spurned a negotiated settlement to the war that could end his people’s suffering. Before the war, Zelensky had failed to stimulate much economic development or curtail corruption, which he himself appears to be implicated in, according to revelations in the Pandora Papers.

In the past years, many Ukrainians have gone to Russia. Crimea is nearby and there they get shelter and help. Russia has no refugee camps, but provides them with shelter, food and medical care.

Zelensky Announces Ban on 11 Political Parties
Heralded as a democratic hero in the U.S., Zelensky here is announcing a ban on opposition parties. [Source: ntd.com]

Ukraine is left by itself to bleed.

Western countries have no interest in its economy or people, because Ukrainian people have many similarities with their “brother” countries—Russia and Belarus—and would naturally be aligned with them.

They share the same culture, language, and history of being invaded by the Nazis in World War II.

The West is only interested in benefits to their own economies.

Many buildings and factories are left to “rot” away and money for infrastructure was never there. Ukraine has been “bleeding” since 2014 and no one in the West has cared.

Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe and the largest producer of sunflower oil, while Russia is the largest producer of fertilizer necessary for growing crops. However, with the war, production will be affected and the whole world economy may suffer. But the leaders in the West, who helped provoke the war, do not care—the Ukrainian people to them are pawns in a larger geopolitical game that will cause potential disaster for all humanity.

  1. In February 2014, the U.S. government supported an insurrection against the legally elected government of Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader who spurned an IMF structural adjustment program that would have been terrible for Ukraine. Victoria Nuland famously was photographed handing out cookies to the demonstrators, many of whom worshipped World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. For more details on these events, see Chris Kaspar de Ploeg, Ukraine in the Crossfire (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019).

  2. These observations correlate with other eyewitness accounts. The Grayzone Project recently ran an important article pointing to misinformation about the destruction of the Mariupol theater, showing how the Azov Battalion was likely responsible for the destruction.

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About the Author


  1. “Henichesk residents waiting on humanitarian aid from the Russian Army”

    And… why didn’t the Russians “give aid” EARLIER, if they were “so kind and generous”?? Hmm…
    Interesting, no? Almost like… this is just being done for ‘propaganda purposes’, but people like Sonja are too biased and/or “dumb” to see it (simply b/c “Russia is anti-US and anti-US allies in Ukraine!”)?

    If Kyiv had been “committing genocide”- a claim that’s been debunked so many times over- within the Donbas for *eight years straight*, SURELY the Russian state and military that “care so much”
    …would’ve at least SENT SOME ‘FORCES’ to “distribute mass aid” prior to some stupid invasion in 2022??
    come on…

    I wouldn’t say this site is “entirely devoid” of ‘scholarly material’, but… ngl, a lot of it is is some of the most-ridiculous, easily-debunkable crap imaginable, in any case. made for simpletons who think most-anything published on a site or from a source that’s “anti-US and anti-Western/-First World corporate media” is automatically “credible, by default”, through some really-weird, campist thought process. As if *those other forces/media* “have no agenda and ulterior motives of their own”

    A “truly Left” analysis, rather, would ‘call out’ the US, corporate media and the like *where necessary* while not “going all-in” for Vladimir Putin and his sh*tty, bourgeois rule and imperialist mentality!

  2. There’s absolutely NO evidence that Azov “blew up” the theater. GIMME A BREAK! Obvious Russian-gov’t disinfo! They do this sh*t ALL THE TIME in Ukraine- engage in some egregious act and then, when called-out by the rest of the world, point fingers at “Azov!” and such. lol
    “Azov fighters did it to blame US!”

    Please… It’s clear deflection

    For example (esp. for that idiot Lina):
    “On 13 April, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a report which covered the Mariupol theatre airstrike.

    ‘Russia does not claim that it was a legitimate target but that it was blown up by the Ukrainian Azov battalion. The Mission did not receive any indication that this could be the case… This incident constitutes most likely an egregious violation of IHL and those who ordered or executed it committed a war crime'”

    Also… interesting how they (Russia) always complain about “Azov” only in these situations. For what it’s worth, Azov is not “the only” ‘nationalist militia’ or “Nazi militia” operating in Ukraine. Plenty of these ‘battalions’, in fact. If Russia “knew all along” that X or Y “did a false flag”, wouldn’t they at least *be specific*, instead of just saying “Azov did it” a gazillion times?
    Just further shows that their “Azov false flag!” line is prepackaged, pre-made BS for propaganda purposes

  3. Lina: I assume that you are a moderator here — yes?

    While I’m obviously obliged to respect CAM’s policy decisions, that Grayzone article I had linked to — ‘BBC correspondent-fixer shaping Ukraine war coverage is PR operative involved in “war-messaging tool”’ — contains a great deal of *new* information debunking the overall Ukrainian propaganda blitz and exposing its media perpetrators.

    Seeing it blocked entirely leaves me with a very uncomfortable feeling, especially since the very first comment here irrelevantly cited that same “taboo” subject via an NPR link chock full of that propaganda.

    I’ll certainly look into the book, though I already know a great deal about Ukraine’s fascist militias from reading here and at other sites over many years. But I nevertheless regret that the Grayzone article was considered to be “objectionable”.

  4. commentators, do not write about the theater in Mariupol. There is already evidence that there were neo-Nazi firing points in the theater. If you are interested, read Armen Gasparyan’s book “DeNATsification of Ukraine. A country of unlearned lessons.” It was written in 2018. Its content explains everything that is normal in Ukraine today.

    • Sorry for mistakes. Read this book, it will explain a lot. Nazism in Ukraine has swallowed up the minds of a new generation. This is scary.

  5. March 23, 2022 NATO Is a Problem, Not the Solution By Yves Engler

    While in no way excusing Russia’s criminal invasion, NATO expansion eastward increased its likelihood. Although we’ll never know if the war would not have happened under different circumstances, after a month of Russian violence against Ukraine the two countries’ negotiators have reportedly agreed that it will reject joining NATO as part of a peace pact.


  6. Mod: I’m getting a “duplicate comment” message attempting to re-post a comment I originally made in the wee hours last night. It is actually a duplicate, but never showed up here, even though several later comments have.

    What gives? Did I violate something?

  7. Thank you for your honest work. I thought the western Mass Media are all dead. It is a surprise there is an independent opinion of a person who actually went in field to see the things

  8. it is very convenient to ask opinions about the armed men who have occupied your city. It is also very convenient to give humanitarian aid to those whom you have occupied and blocked all supplies. I live not far from there and you will tell me how I live well when my city was occupied by Russian pigs?

    • East Ukraine hundreds years was a part of Russia. And Russia came to its own land. And people living in those places are russians.
      If you didn’t know history, keep your pigmouth closed.

      • Shut your mouth u, scum, if u like ur bald gnome Putler, then sit with him in the bunker. How about Kenisberg, Crimea, Kurilian Islands and more others, uncomfortable to hear, yeah?

    • Neo nazi , bowing to grupennszturm furer Szuhewicz,- war criminal with genocidic action against civilian, Bandera as well, officer austrianand genocider even for ukrainianes, Bandera mordered polisz ministre , juwuish and people no ukrainian nationality with brutality of Satan .Baby Jar, Salaspil, Hatyn, hondrets another villigies with civilians and prisoners of war. just the same neo nazi from many of nazi batalions , and ukrainian army, genociding Donbass jaust according way of nazi satanic ideology . Nazizm will be destroied with nazists jaust like was done in Germany. Good nazi-dead nazi . Der Rot Front.

  9. Sonja, thank you for your article.
    And thank for being brave and telling the truth.
    It is very rare quality in or days.

    Our civilization rests on specific principles that we have not even defined them by ourself …, and when these principles are destroyed, everything slips away and degrades.

    And some of these principles are: honesty and trust.

    …journalism in the definition of liberals / democrats is prostitution, these are the same Pharisees who once incited the crowd to execute Jesus.

    Thank you again for your honesty.

    As long as there are people of truth on this earth, there will be civilization.

    • Ago-absolutely on target. Thank you! I would love to have your permission to share your post with a group site I am on.

  10. […] bewoners leefden de mensen vóór de staatsgreep van 2014 [1] in harmonie. Veel Tataren afkomstig uit de Krim wonen in Henichesk. Ze mogen terug naar de Krim […]

  11. […] en anderen met een achtergrond in het leger en de inlichtingendiensten. Ook het verhaal van een Nederlandse journaliste die ‘embedded’ met de Russische troepen meereist, en dat geeft toch een ander perspectief dan […]

  12. As David Icke said recently; it’s psychopaths fighting psychopaths…and they’re being puppeteered by the Super-Pschopaths that operate above and beyond the so-called “nation-state”.

    Jesus said; “…don’t invest too much in this world,,,it’s not worth it…”.
    EgoMatrix—World of Lies. Or; this world is an insane asylum.
    The Truth sets us Free.

  13. Under the picture of Zelenskyy in this extremely biased and one sided article it says that Zelenskyy is announcing a ban on opposition parties. What Zelenskyy was actualy announcing was ” Zelenskyy suspends Ukrainian opposition parties with ‘ties’ to Russia, warns of ‘harsh response’ if they don’t comply with ban”
    This action was understandable in view of the brutal invasion by Russia which made it important to take strong actions that would not be taken under normal times. When peace returns some of the strong measures will be lessened.

  14. i LOOK TO YOUR MAGAZINE to avoid misleading “facts” about wars and history. This article is more an example of the bias of many big media with a headline and a story that attempts to smear media while making Putin’s war machine and attack look like nice people. COVERTMAGAZINE is practicing a false equivalency by singling out a VERY small piece of the attack. This is like ABC News saying Chicago welcomes a Canadian military take over because they fear gang violence in the streets. There ARE people being killed by Russia on Putin’s orders. Where is that FACT is this piece. War crimes ARE being committed by Russia just as America has committed war crimes. Why are you ignoring / hiding that fact? Are you kidding me? “Intrepid” must mean support for Russian murder and war crimes in your lexicon. No country is innocent; don’t take the side of war criminals either way, OK?

    • nazizmus never stand in side of contry – man kind has expeareance of second war fighting against nazizmus, Then never again – Ukrain never will be used by siono nazi like Germany. Your opininan, pronazi creatures or better- just nazi you- or your real support for nazi – will not have any result. Denazification will be produced jusyt like in for The Rih 3 . Good nazi-dead nazi.

  15. In the city of Kherson which is 108 miles from Henichesk the Ukranians have not welcomed the Russians as
    ‘liberators” and the people there are fighting with great determination bravery and spirit against the Russian invaders. The city is very united in their desire for freedom and democracy.

  16. this article is a sham and the journalist were clearly shown a model city pre designed by the FSB for that nonsensical “denazification” moscow propaganda you are swallowing up wholesale.
    Ask your friends in the russian army about the 300 civilians that just got killed while sheltering in a dram theater in mariupol or the 917 dead civillians since the war started or the use of phosphorus bombs.




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