Seán Moncrieff has said life in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv seems almost normal – until you walk around a corner and see first-hand the destruction of war.
The Newstalk presenter spent last week in Ukraine talking to locals ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion.
Seán spoke to locals right across the capital city, including veterans, soldiers, business owners – and even zoo workers.
He also visited Irpin and Borodyanka, two of the suburbs most devastated by the initial invasion last year.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Seán was asked whether the visit has changed his views on the invasion and the ongoing war.
“A very striking thing happened on the way out,” he said. “It takes a long time because you can’t fly into Kyiv obviously so you have to take a train.
“We came back from an airport in Poland, which is very close to the border of Ukraine.
“That is surrounded in anti-aircraft batteries. That is a country in the European Union. So that really brought it home to me that, God knows what could happen if this goes on.”
Almost one year on from when the war in Ukraine started, @SeanMoncrieff visited Kyiv to speak to Ukrainians about what they have experienced over the last year.
Tune in to @PatKennyNT now to hear how Sean got on.
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) February 20, 2023
The Newstalk presenter said there was an air raid alert in Kyiv the moment he walked out of the train station with producer Aisling Moore.
"Most Kyivans just kind of shrug and say, well we’ll wait for ten minutes and see,” he said. “It has become normalised in their day-to-day life.
“You get an alert and maybe half an hour later the alert would say it is safe to go out now.
“There was a rocket one day that was shot down and another day there was a balloon shot down, which kind of implied that the Russians were taking a leaf out of the Chinese book.”
He said life in Kyiv feels almost normal, despite the threat of attack.
“If you squint, it is completely normal,” he said.
“I must admit, I knew little or nothing about Kyiv before I arrived there.
“It’s a large city; it’s a cosmopolitan, European city. Everything is bilingual and it’s very busy.
“You know, I would go back in a heartbeat, actually, just for a holiday. The restaurants were gorgeous. There is an old town down by the river and then that is surrounded by a, kind of, more high-rise place that has a sort of downtown Manhattan feel to it.
“People are, kind of, just getting on with their lives.
“Now you can drive around and you go round the corner and there’s a demolished building in front of you. It’s really when you go the outskirts that you see the real devastation.”
He said visits to suburbs like Bucha, Irpin and Borodyanka showed how destructive the invasion has been.
“These are effectively suburbs of Kyiv,” he said. “This is like as if an invading army got as far as Dun Laoghaire and just flattened the place.”
Séan said locals believe the Russian soldiers were surprised by the resistance they encountered when they arrived in the towns and became more violent as a result.
“We were told many times by people that the Russians would try to kick in their front doors but were unable to do so and were surprised by how sturdy Ukrainian front doors are,” he said.
“When they went inside there was a lot of looting because they were a bit, ‘you have a microwave, you have a TV, we were told you were all peasants with no money,’ which, from the stories we were told, just seemed to infuriate them even further.
“So then you had cars getting shot and if people went out on the street, they would be shot.
“There were bodies piling up outside doors - the Russians wouldn’t allow funerals to take place - to the extent dogs were eating bodies in the street, while people were looking out their front windows.”
Asked how the locals view Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said: “They certainly think he is evil”.
“They see it as an existential threat. They see it that, the only way out of this is that they at least continue to beat Russia to a standstill or eventually he is taken down.”
Throughout this week on Moncrieff, Seán will be playing out interviews and reports from his time in Ukraine.
Tune in every day from 2pm.