Romanian marketeer-turned-war correspondent keeps thousands informed on Ukraine war
When digital marketing expert Radu Hossu started writing and posting about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he didn’t expect that much would come of it. Night after night, he would update whoever would be reading on the situation at the frontlines. Each of his posts now gathers thousands of likes and hundreds of shares from Romanians looking to stay informed on the war.
If traditional news outlets gloss over certain events or limit their reporting to casualties or the names of cities and towns under attack, Radu delves deeper. His posts include precious details – how the battle lines move, what towns might be under attack next, information on Russian deployments and morale, how strong defenses proved to be at a certain location, where missiles were shot from, and what the trends on the ground seem to be. Region by region, sometimes city by city, he lays out clashes and other events in a structured, concise, and easy-to-understand way.
“On February 24, the battle line was about 1,800 km long, stretching from north of Kyiv, going east, all the way to Mykolaiv,” Radu says. “Now, the battle in Donbas has a line of contact that is about 200 km long.”
However, Hossu doesn’t claim to be an impartial observer of the war or an expert. Each of his updates ends with a hearty “Slava Ukraini!” and his posts almost always include an encouragement to fellow Romanians to support Ukraine. Nevertheless, he aims to present the facts. He uses time-tested Telegram and Twitter sources to compile his summary of the latest developments in the ongoing war.
When he clocks out at his job in marketing, Radu begins to work on the draft of the day, combining official reports and statements with accounts posted on social media by people on the ground. Professionally versed in communication, he quickly found his way around informational highways on social media. The war in Ukraine brought the world its most recent look at what modern-day propaganda might look like, and much of that happens on Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok. Hossu thinks that Ukraine and Russia have both used up-and-coming social media platform TikTok during the war.
“Russia is using all the social network platforms to shape a new parallel reality, to create doubt regarding what is really happening in the war,” he says. “TikTok is an entertainment platform where people are more easily manipulated with the help of short visual stories and it is harder to combat fake news there like on, let’s say, Facebook.”
Social media is also where videos showing drone strikes or tank battles are posted, allowing the viewer to see a close-up of other human beings suffering a violent death. “Of course, it affects you,” Hossu says, “but then you come back and think how this happened. We need to look closely at those pictures and realize that those people can be any of us if we do not protect the system of values and our Western world order.”
According to him, Romania had – and still has – an important role to play, as Ukraine’s neighbor, refugee transit space, and aid provider. Those who want to be aware of the conflict taking place not far from Romania’s borders find an invaluable source of information in Radu Hossu’s updates.
Romania Insider: To begin with, can you describe what you do every night to put together the summaries of the war in Ukraine?
Radu Hossu: Well, the work starts during the day. When I have my breaks from my daily business, I start looking into the Telegram channels and Twitter lists for information regarding two main issues: war battles inside Ukraine and war evolution outside Ukraine, meaning how are other states reacting to the war, who is helping, how, with what, etc. After I finish my everyday job, I start compiling the information gathered through the day and I read all the official reports that I can find, and analyze the sources, and only after that do I start writing a draft of the summary which I proofread and then I post on Facebook and on my Patreon.
RI: Did you intend for your summaries to become what they are today? Not to mention their popularity.
RH: No, I did not think about popularity, not in a million years. And today the summaries are the same as the first one. Condensed information about the battle axes and an opinion piece on how or where things are going.
RI: Who do you regard as a reliable source of information? How do you sift through the news and social media posts?
RH: Official statements by the western allies, like the UK, France, and the US or UN and NATO. But they do not have daily briefings, so I have to rely on other sources that have proven in time to give reliable information. I do not read the news, I rely mostly on press briefings and social media posts by sources on the ground or that have proven their ability to understand the war (military bloggers, military analysts, etc).
RI: Have you noticed any major shifts in how the war is going recently?
RH: Russia is concentrating its forces on a narrower battle line than at the begging of the war. On February 24, the battle line was about 1,800 km long, stretching from north of Kyiv, going east, all the way to Mykolaiv. Now, the battle in Donbas has a line of contact that is about 200 km long. Russians now want to conquer all Donbas ASAP in order to deliver some sort of victory back home and for the propaganda machine, otherwise, the elites in Kremlin, starting with Putin, might be in a bit of trouble.
RI: Which social media platform would you say is having the biggest impact on the war? So far, TikTok has been considered an app that is directed more toward teenagers, a place where dance routines are at the height of popularity. Do you believe TikTok has a role in the war and its perception nowadays?
RH: For sure Ukraine and Russia have used the platform to mold realities into perceptions that serve their interest. Ukraine and the western states are trying to debunk Russia's fake news, meanwhile, Russia is using all the social network platforms to shape a new parallel reality, to create doubt regarding what is really happening in the war. TikTok is an entertainment platform where people are more easily manipulated with the help of short visual stories and it is harder to combat fake news there than on, let’s say Facebook.
RI: While looking for information on the war, have you seen evidence of crimes against humanity?
RH: I am in no position to evaluate such acts, but there are enough international organizations that are investigating this matter.
RI: Since the start of the war, social media became awash with footage of drone strikes, tank skirmishes, and other videos that show actual human beings dying. Do you find it difficult to talk or write about some of the things you’ve seen? How do you keep them from affecting you?
RH: Of course, it affects you, but then you come back and think how this happened. I always remind myself that this is an unprovoked, immoral, and illegal invasion by the Russian army against a sovereign peaceful state. And in a war, you must defend yourself and that might require eliminating your enemy. The images that I saw that were the most impactful were those from the Bucha massacre. It is impossible not to feel anything or to totally suppress your emotions and I think is even worse for your mental state to continuously try to block your emotions. So I do not do anything special other than protecting myself. On the other side, if we want to really understand the level of inhumanity in a war, we need to look closely at those pictures and realize that those people can be any of us if we do not protect the system of values and our western world order.
RI: Do you see any way in which Romania could have a larger role in aiding Ukraine? How about individual citizens?
RH: There are thousands of individual citizens in Romania that helped Ukrainian refugees, tents of NGOs that were organized with local authorities, and prepared for the wave of refugees at the start of the war. In Brașov, where I live, local authorities transformed a business center into a refugee center with all that was needed for receiving incoming Ukrainians. Now that center is UNHCR certified Blue Dot, which means it offers a safe place for families at the highest standards in the world. All of this was done by local NGOs, local authorities, and individual citizens. Another way Brașov helped Ukraine was by “adopting” Mykolaiv as a city that will be helped with priority. Our mayor was in the contact with Mykolaiv mayor almost every day since the beginning of the war and through private donations, we have been able to ship tens of tons of goods to that bombarded city. It would have been great if Brașov’s example would have been followed by other big cities in Romania and if each and everyone would have “adopted” a big Ukrainian city, I think that would have made a small but important difference in the way Ukrainians live in this time of war.
RI: What do you hope to accomplish through the nightly summaries?
RH: I hope that my summaries will help people stay informed but without losing the time themselves to read, check, fact check all the info. I hope that I can gather a community around my Facebook profile that puts principles and values above material value so that moving forward we will have a critical mass of people, some gathered around my profile, some in other circles that are somehow interconnected, and this critical mass will be present when the time will require to make our voices heard.
RI: In one of your posts, you mentioned that you believe that we are living in historic times. What does that imply for each of us and for Romania?
RH: It simply means that the world won’t be the same as before February 24, before the invasion. Even more so for Romania, as it shares a border with Ukraine and is close to this illegal, immoral, and unprovoked war. It is important for each of us to understand that if corruption can, almost single-handedly destroy one of the biggest armies in the world, for sure it can destroy our public health, education, and infrastructure system. This can be translated into a slowed development of our country, a country that moves forward with the brake pedal down. It is important to understand that each and every one of us counts. Our voices count, our thoughts count, and our presence count. Politics matter, whether we like it or not. And we have to be engaged. Ukrainians fight and die not for a material cause like more money or a bigger pension, but because they want to be part of the EU. To be part of the same elite club that we, Romanians, luckily are. We must be as courageous and keep on fighting to eradicate corruption otherwise the future does not look as bright as it could.
Radu Hossu's daily updates on the war in Ukraine can be followed on his Facebook page. Hossu also plans to travel to Ukraine, in July, as a war correspondent to document the Battle of Donbas, about which he wants to write a book.
(Photo source: Radu Hossu)