In one very specific way, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been unlike any other conflict in history: Cellphone cameras and social media have allowed the public to watch it happen, often in real time, from multiple perspectives.
Ukrainian citizens are live streaming as explosions shake their homes. Russian soldiers are filming POV footage as they drive their tanks through Ukraine.
The bulk of this footage is being published on the immensely popular Chinese app TikTok.
While all of these videos purportedly come from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it should be noted that some of the footage might have been repurposed from past conflicts or even manufactured as a prank or for propaganda purposes.
With that caveat, many such videos appear to show the perspective of Ukrainian citizens as airstrikes and explosions go off all around them.
Other videos show different aspects of life in the face of a Russian invasion.
Videos depicting the tearful scene as Ukrainian men say goodbye to their loved ones have gone viral.
After President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law, the Ukraine State Border Guard Service announced that men between the ages of 18 and 60 must stay in the country, according to CNN.
It’s Friday; a father tearfully places his daughter on a bus to safety before returning to battle for Ukrainepic.twitter.com/GoqYmMDyjo
— Hy Bender (@hybender) February 25, 2022
There is no stronger image than this. A father says goodbye to his daughter during the evacuation of Donetsk in Donbas, not knowing if he will see her again.
The men are recruited and separated from their families #bbcnews #Ukrainian #Kyiv #Putin #Article 4 #nytimes #Russia pic.twitter.com/admg08OcX7
— .. . (@Georgio_Geo_G) February 24, 2022
Not all videos coming out of the conflict are quite as depressing. Some have even bordered on feeling lighthearted.
One such popular video purportedly shows a Ukrainian man removing a Russian mine from a roadway while smoking a cigarette.
Video of a Ukrainian civilian moving a land mine: That’s a TM62 (very common) Soviet anti-tank mine. It has a fuze in the center that’s removable by hand, then making it safe to pick up. However, they are sometimes fitted with an anti-vibration/magnetism fuse pic.twitter.com/7teIqlk2dN
— Joey Jones (@Johnny_Joey) February 28, 2022
The Ukrainians aren’t the only ones posting videos to social media, however. Russian soldiers also have been active on platforms such as TikTok.
The Washington Post compiled a long list of videos from Russian forces in a report published on Feb. 11 showing how those forces were closing in on Ukraine.
According to The Post, this first video “shows Russian armored vehicles traveling along roads near Ukraine” between Feb. 8 and Feb. 9.
Another video from Feb. 5 “showed Russian forces moving missile launchers near the Ukrainian border.”
Numerous similar videos showed Russia preparing for its attack.
Again, many of these videos may turn out to be fake or repurposed from past events. Still, the authentic footage that participants are posting on social media is making the Russian invasion of Ukraine truly unprecedented.
Individuals from across the world now have front-row seats to watch what’s happening, moment to moment, on the front lines of a major conflict.