Skip to main content

Reporter's notebook: The worst day I've seen in Kiev

By Todd Baxter and Lateef Mungin, CNN
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1048 GMT (1848 HKT)
Protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, cheer Friday, February 21, after news of an agreement between the government and opposition leaders. Violence recently intensified in Kiev's Independence Square, which has been the center of anti-government protests for the past few months. Protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, cheer Friday, February 21, after news of an agreement between the government and opposition leaders. Violence recently intensified in Kiev's Independence Square, which has been the center of anti-government protests for the past few months.
HIDE CAPTION
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN cameraman describes filming chaos, clashes, gunshot victims
  • He sees five bodies in a stairwell, more piled up in lobby of his hotel
  • "A day ago this looked like a typical hotel lobby. Now it was a makeshift morgue," he says

Editor's note: CNN cameraman Todd Baxter shares his first-hand account of covering the conflict in Ukraine in a revealing reporter's notebook.

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- The gunbattle was so close it rattled the walls.

I grabbed my camera and pointed it out the window, looking toward Independence Square. From more than 10 stories up, I filmed the chaos. Protesters were all around, ramming into the lines of police officers. Black smoke hung in the air. Gunfire rang out.

I saw a medic shot in the arm. He was helped to safety. I saw at least 20 wounded people carried away. But the gunmen could not be seen. There was panic. People looked skyward, scanning rooftops for snipers. At one point, a crowd of protesters stormed this hotel. They searched, floor to floor, trying to confirm a rumor that snipers were shooting from here.

CNN crew sees Ukraine violence firsthand

Then there was another rumor about what was in the lobby of this hotel.

I clutched my camera and ran down the stairs. Little did I know then that I was about to see even more misery in what would turn out to be the worst day I've seen since arriving in Kiev.

As I ran, I noticed bullet holes in the stairwell windows. Three had pierced through a second-floor window. Three more had shattered through another window.

And then I saw the bodies.

There were five bodies underneath the stairs, lifeless feet peeking out of the white sheets that covered them. There were more bodies lined up just feet from the reception desk. They were wrapped in white sheets and red splotches bled through.

A priest paced back and forth. We were told that the priest had blessed the bodies even though people were still trying to find out who the victims were. Protesters went through the pockets of the fallen, searching for identification cards.

We were told that the wounded and dying had to be brought to the closest place. That's why this hotel had been chosen. There were no ambulances, just people struggling to drag in the fallen.

This happened just hours after the Ukraine government declared a truce in the fighting here that has shocked the world. Clearly, the truce had not held.

A day ago this looked like a typical hotel lobby. Now it was a makeshift morgue. I counted 11 bodies. We were told later that in all 13 people had been rushed into this hotel, three of them clinging to life. None of them made it.

On the other side of the lobby someone was wiping streaks of blood off the white marble floor. Outside, gunfire still rang out.

And they continue to bring in bodies.

CNN's Todd Baxter dictated from Kiev, Ukraine. Lateef Mungin wrote from Atlanta.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
The shooting down of MH17 may finally alert Washington and Europe to the danger of the conflict in Ukraine.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
Russia has not taken steps to end Ukraine conflict, President Obama said announcing sanctions against separatists, defense companies.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 2136 GMT (0536 HKT)
An agreement with the EU formally pushes Ukraine away from Russia. The Kremlin says it's okay with that.
June 28, 2014 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says peace is possible if Vladimir Putin is in the right mood.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Vladimir Putin said he hoped for better ties with the United States in a July Fourth message to Barack Obama.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 1146 GMT (1946 HKT)
EXCLUSIVE: Ukrainian President Poroshenko says he wants peace, and describes negotiations with President Putin.
April 1, 2014 -- Updated 0940 GMT (1740 HKT)
Annexation is no longer the focus of Ukraine crisis. What happened?
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0033 GMT (0833 HKT)
Civilians are caught in the crossfire between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists. Diana Magnay reports.
June 7, 2014 -- Updated 1823 GMT (0223 HKT)
Petro Poroshenko sets the tone for his country's conversation with itself and the world, but how will Russia now react?
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1711 GMT (0111 HKT)
Images from Ukraine amidst violence after President Petro Poroshenko's election
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
In the elegant surroundings of London's Somerset House, one oligarch is using art to get his message across.
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 1957 GMT (0357 HKT)
As fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, many wonder how the region will ever heal. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports.
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT)
Images from Crimea, Donetsk, Kiev and elsewhere as the future of Ukraine lies in doubt.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1854 GMT (0254 HKT)
Scenes from Ukraine and Crimea, captured by CNN teams.
ADVERTISEMENT