Silent streets, empty shopping districts and abandoned homes are signs of how tense things are in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city. Since Russian forces invaded on 24 February, people from all over the world have been tuning in to watch live streams from Kyiv. While so far the feeds have been relatively action-free, as Russian troops close in on the capital city, they could become increasingly important for reporters and the public concerned about the war on Ukraine.
Offering a real-time view of what’s going on, webcams streaming from Maidan Square, the Obolon district and over Kyiv’s skyline have become a popular way for people to monitor what’s happening in the capital. Streets are empty of people shopping, visiting restaurants or going to bars, very few cars are on the roads and hardly anyone can be seen walking around these popular areas.
By night, the webcams in Kyiv depict a dark, deserted city since Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, issued a city wide curfew. On some live streams with sound, gunfire and explosions can be heard in the distance alongside air raid sirens and the strange but familiar sound of birds tweeting at dawn.
What’s being reported by these live streams is as real as it gets. There’s no one narrating the events, no superimposed facts and figures to alarm or desensitize you, and often no sound to distract you.
Live webcams recording city life are nothing new, but this is perhaps the first time they've been used to watch actions of aggressions unfold. One YouTuber known as Chiosphotos.gr has even compiled four live streams into one, enabling people to watch different views at the same time.
In the days since Russia invaded, more than 520,000 Ukrainians have fled the country according to Associated Press, seeking refuge in Poland, Hungary, Serbia and Moldova. Many of those who chose to stay are now staying in underground car parks and subway stations, unsure of when or if they'll ever be able to return home.
While the webcams in Kyiv could start to stream a lot more turbulent footage in the coming days, it’s important to remember that these webcams are reporting on events that will change people's lives.
Currently, more than 10,000 people are watching the live stream of Independence Square in Kyiv. The webcams are not there to entertain or binge-watch hoping to see a slice of the action as it happens; using webcams to monitor the unfolding of war shouldn’t be an action taken lightly. Those with the privilege to watch from afar should use that advantage to help where possible, minimize the spread of disinformation and take the time to learn about why this invasion is happening and who it will affect.