In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with award-winning CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams about her on-the-ground reporting in Ukraine since the days of the 2014 Maidan revolution. Williams and Morell discuss the scenes at the front lines of the conflict today, including the brutality of Russia’s tactics, the morale of Ukraine’s forces, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s unlikely rise to the presidency. Williams also offers insights into the kinds of preparations that are made for conflict zone reporting and reflects on the sacrifices journalists have made while covering Russia’s war. 

Brutality of Russian forces’ tactics:  “I think it’s shocking that a military that a lot of us assumed – however you feel about the morality of the invasion – I think many of us assumed that the Russian military would behave in the manner of a professional military. And when you look at some of the things that occurred around Kyiv, the execution-style killings, obviously we have widespread accusations of sexual violence, of rape, I think that’s very shocking.”

Putin’s aims in Ukraine: “[E]verything that Vladimir Putin seems to have done in Ukraine has, as far as we can tell, had the opposite effect to what he really wanted, which is, if what he really wants is to bring Ukraine back into Moscow’s orbit or even to kind of make it once again part of a sort of Russian empire, everything he’s done since 2014 has had a completely opposite effect.  Because what we’ve seen since 2014 is, seemingly, is Ukrainians become more certain that they don’t want that, more certain that they are Ukrainian, more certain that their future lies in Europe and allied to the West. So I think the first point is that, I mean, if that’s genuinely what he wants, he’s not going about it the right way.”  

Spending time with President Zelenskyy: “I went to wash my hands in the tiny little bathroom with the president of Ukraine and then was shown into the kitchen where I met his parents, who were very sort of jolly people. And we sat down and had breakfast with President Zelensky and his mom and dad and his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak. And truly, one of the most exceptional experiences I’ve ever had as a journalist.”

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