A volunteer radio broadcasts war reports in Russian from a small French village

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From a small village in the south of France, a volunteer radio station is doing its part to bring accurate information in Russian about the war in Ukraine to listeners in Russia.

Radio for Peace International was established in 2019 to broadcast information on human rights and democracy, focusing on conflict zones.

It is run by volunteers and based in Auros, Gironde, a village of less than 1,000 inhabitants.

News and investigative reporting on Russia

When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, station manager Sylvain Clament decided to act.

“Within two weeks, thanks to our past experience reporting on conflict zones, we were able to launch 15-minute programs, broadcast three times a week,” he told The Connection.

The three weekly programs are all in Russian and presented by displaced journalists and researchers who have fled the region.

One is an investigative show about Russia, its systems and how the country works, while another is more “classic news”, Mr Clament said, with updates on the war in Ukraine.

Difficult to get precise viewing figures

Mr Clament does not know how many people in Russia or the region listen to the station, but says the number does not matter to him.

“We have listeners in Russia, that’s for sure.

“But it’s complicated to know how much because we broadcast on waves that cover enormous distances. Moreover, in times of war, it is difficult to obtain comments.

“But what we’re offering is a new channel with free factual information.

“A lot of Russian journalists told us it was important. We don’t need more than that.

Journalism is an integral part of democracy

Radio for Peace International was first launched in the United States in 1985.

The station operated for two decades but eventually faced financial difficulties and finally closed in 2008.

Mr Clament said he wanted to ‘carry the torch’ and so in 2019 he contacted one of the station’s original founders, James Latham, to request the rights to the name.

Mr Latham agreed and a new incarnation of the station was born, this time from a small French village.

“I have always been very involved in issues that affect people. Also, I love the radio,” Clament said, adding that the shows are a way to “build for the future.”

“We want to help journalists keep working as much as we can,” he said.

“Journalism is an integral part of democracy. Not letting Russian journalists disappear is a way of thinking about the country’s future and a possible path to democracy.

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