In the fight against Russia, Ukrainian citizens turn to an old recipe

Photo by Tyler Hicks/The New York Times/Redux

This article was produced in partnership with Retro Report, and first appeared in Retro Report’s free weekly newsletter.

By Irem Ozturan

“Make Molotov cocktails, neutralize the occupier!” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense tweeted, urging citizens to fight what has become the largest military assault in Europe since World War II. Ukraine’s National Guard shared instructions on social media last week for making the bomb, which has roots in the 1930s and 40s.

Improvised bombs like Molotov cocktails, relatively easy and cheap to produce, are a staple of groups short on traditional military equipment, like rioters, urban guerillas, terrorists and football hooligans. But they were developed as tools of large-scale war, used to combat foreign invaders.

The name comes from the Winter War, when Soviet forces invaded Finland and bombed Helsinki, the nation’s capital in 1939. Facing international criticism, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov falsely claimed the attack was meant as humanitarian aid for their starving neighbors. That inspired Finns, who were not starving, to sarcastically dub Soviet cluster bombs “Molotov’s bread baskets.”

Soon Finns began building bombs from gasoline-filled glass bottles with a stick as a fuse, calling them “Molotov cocktails,” according to historian William R. Trotter. The weapons proved effective even against Soviet tanks.

Similar handmade bombs go back at least as far as Spain’s Civil War (1936-1939). Spanish Nationalist troops used them against Soviet tanks supporting the Spanish Republicans; later, both sides deployed them.

In 1939 in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, a series of Soviet-Japanese border conflicts, more than 100 Soviet tanks or armored cars were destroyed by similar weapons. In the early 1940s, improvised bombs were stockpiled in Britain to be used against German tanks in case of a Nazi invasion.

Last week, as Russian troops advanced on Kyiv and other cities, Ukrainians used resources in innovative ways to build and maintain ammunition. Civilians turned a public park in Dnipro, in central Ukraine, into an open-air Molotov cocktail factory. Military instructors taught civilians how to use the weapons in an abandoned factory in Kyiv. Employees at the Pravda Brewery in Lyiv halted beer production and manufactured makeshift bombs instead. In restaurants, according to a New York Times report, bottled water is being served exclusively in plastic bottles. The glass ones are being used to make Molotov cocktails.

Turning Points wins Silver Anthem Award

Houses on a snowy hill at sunset. Ndilǫ, a Dene community near Yellowknife, NWT, Canada.

The GRC is pleased to announce that the Turning Points project, a documentary short series that explores alcohol use, addiction, resilience and healing in Yellowknife, has been awarded a Silver Medal at the inaugural Anthem Awards. The project was selected in the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion – Partnership or Collaboration category.

This was not a typical journalism project. Storytellers were directly involved at every stage of the production process. They shared the cultural, social, geographic and historical factors that both drew them into addiction and allowed them to map out routes to recovery.

The series debuted in February 2020 at a screening in Yellowknife, where friends, families and community members piled into a packed venue to watch the documentaries and hear directly from the storytellers. It was then aired in partnership with PBS NewsHour.

Bearing witness to war crimes

A conversation with photojournalist Ali Arkady

This event took place January 25th, 2022, from 12:00-1:30pm PST. See below for the recording.

About the event

When Iraqi photojournalist Ali Arkady embedded with an elite military unit as they battled ISIS, he thought he was going to document heroics. Instead he witnessed and photographed some of the most brutal instances of torture and abuse in modern Iraqi history. 

What followed was an award-winning series in media organizations around the world — as well as death threats that forced him to flee his home country for good. Arkady was also the target of a disinformation campaign aimed at destroying his credibility and his career.

Join the GRC’s Executive Editor Andrea Crossan in a conversation about the ethics, risks and costs of bearing witness to war crimes.

About Ali Arkady: Ali Arkady is an Iraqi photographer, filmmaker, and artist currently living in Europe. Arkady documented Iraqi conflicts for over 18 years, focusing on displacement of civilians, the Yazidi community, and the violence perpetrated by the Islamic State. In 2017, Arkady and his family fled to Europe after he photographed Iraqi forces committing war crimes. The publication of these photos pressured the Iraqi government to acknowledge the army’s crimes, and earned him the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents in 2017, and the Free Press Unlimited Most Resilient Journalist Award in 2019. Since leaving Iraq, Arkady has trained young photographers at the UNHCR and the VII Academy. He is currently working on an upcoming publication and multimedia website in partnership with the Global Reporting Centre and VII Photo Agency.

About Andrea Crossan: Andrea Crossan is the Executive Editor of the Global Reporting Centre. She has worked as a journalist in the US, UK and Canada and has reported from conflict and post-conflict zones around the world.

This talk is co-sponsored by the Global Reporting Centre and the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics. It will take place on January 25th, 2022, from 12:00-1:30pm, on Zoom. Register here. A Zoom link will be sent on January 24th.

Meet Our New Supply Chain Reporting Fellow

Esther Cheung

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I’m an animator and filmmaker and have been working in the commercial animation industry for the past few years. I have a Bachelor in Animation Arts from Sheridan College, located about an hour west of my hometown Markham. I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember and am especially interested in the documentary medium. As I delved deeper into the animation industry, it was rare to find the medium being used for nonfiction in a high-quality way. Drawings always seemed like the medium of last resort – I want to change that. 

What are your areas of interest/what would you like to report on?

I think I am still trying to figure out my niche – I come from an arts background and am a drawer first and foremost, which greatly influences the way I see the world. As a visually inclined person, I am drawn to stories that are visually compelling. Oftentimes, this tends to reveal itself in my great fascination with cultures and the people that form them. I enjoy focusing on understanding the choices people make and understanding the context under which they were chosen. Currently, I am interested in people, the migration of people and the fusions of cultures that form when they rebel against assimilation. 

Why were you interested in applying for the Hidden Costs of Global Supply Chains Student Fellowship?

There is a lot to be said about the way the world is connected now. I was always curious about my personal impact and the ripples I make with one small action: a purchase, a post, my choice of tomato at the grocery store. Our globalized world causes our personal actions to affect much more than we can immediately see. I am interested in the ramifications of my actions and choices and hope that I can not only better understand my responsibility as a global citizen but make bigger waves of change.

What drew you to the GRC? 

The quality storytelling drew me first and foremost to the GRC. But I found that the particular stories showcased really reeled me in. I wanted to take part in telling impactful stories.

Are there any aspects of investigating global supply chains that you’re particularly interested in?

I am interested in the human side of stories. I am particularly interested in how people are affected by decisions that they did not make. Stories of labour abuses and corruption definitely interest me.

What will your role be as the Hidden Costs fellow?

Currently, I am creating illustrations to help people understand the story as well as working with Andrew to create interactive elements for the website, which is pretty exciting. 

Thank you for your time, and welcome to the GRC team. I wish you success in your new role!

Q & A with Andie Crossan

Andie Crossan

Hello Andie, and welcome to the Global Reporting Centre. We’re happy to have you on board. To get started, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your journalism background?

I’m thrilled to join the Global Reporting Centre. I recently left Boston, where I was the Executive Producer of the international current affairs radio program PRX’s The World. Before my time at PRX’s The World, I worked for the BBC World Service, NBC News and CBC in London. 

What drew you to work for the GRC? Why did you think our organization would be a good fit for you and your career trajectory?

The past year has been one of profound change for many of us. I’m originally from Vancouver and I made the decision at the end of 2020 to leave the United States and return to Canada to be closer to my family. I’ve been telling stories from around the globe for decades so I jumped at the opportunity to continue working in international news with the GRC. I had also connected with the GRC last year when PRX’s The World  partnered with the centre to air excerpts from Mary Kay Magistad’s outstanding podcast series On China’s New Silk Road.

In your short time at the GRC what have you found and what do you think this place does differently from the previous organizations that you’ve been with?

For most of my career, I’ve worked for large media organizations. The GRC is a place where there is opportunity to experiment and think about how we work as journalists. This is a critical moment as we navigate issues like who should be telling stories and what relationship journalists have with their subjects. As a mixed heritage Indigenous woman, I was particularly impressed with the GRC’s groundbreaking work on the Turning Points project that is currently airing on PBS NewsHour. 

You have decades of experience working in journalism and have held many roles. Do you think there is a need for innovation in the sector? What kind of approach do you think would lead to positive change?

There is an inherent tension in journalism between the need to “break news” and to tell deeply reported, nuanced stories. This has become even more apparent as we have so many choices around how and where we receive information. The GRC emphasizes the power of collaboration—collaboration between media organizations, journalists, students, scholars, and community members.

What are your favourite topics to report on? What kind of stories do you enjoy/want to see told?

Much of my work has been focussed on reporting on gender equity. I’ve worked extensively in Central and South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. I try to frame my thinking around people at the center of any issue. And I am always moved by the generosity of people who share their experiences with me.

Is there a particular medium that you prefer?

I started my career working in television and then transitioned to radio. I think it’s always about finding the medium that works best for the story and the audience you are trying to connect with. Some stories work best as a long read print article or a documentary series and others can be a powerful Instagram story or Twitter thread.

What is the main contribution you think that you can make to the GRC? 

My goal is to share what I’ve learned during my career as a journalist and also to learn from the students and staff at the GRC. This is a time of growth at the Global Reporting Centre. We are launching a number of collaborative projects in the coming months and I am excited at the opportunity to provide editorial, operational and fundraising support. 

Thank you for your time, and once again we’re so happy to have you on board!

Thank you!

Here’s how we do global journalism differently


The Global Reporting Centre is kicking off its year-end giving campaign today on Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to giving from the heart to causes you care about, like innovative journalism that empowers and informs the society it serves.

Our investigations are collaborative. We partner with journalists and media organizations, and bring researchers and universities into our newsroom to deepen our understanding of complex issues. 

On the biggest annual day of giving, the GRC invites you to help us keep producing the kinds of cutting-edge, independent journalism that cannot be made without your support. 

Support the Global Reporting Centre with a tax-deductible donation. Every dollar will be matched with a generous donation from Tiny Foundation.

Recent Stories

Documentary series by Indigenous Canadians

We are at a critical time in history when people are questioning not only who journalism is for, but who it is made by. Using an “empowerment journalism” approach we partnered with Indigenous Canadians to produce Turning Points, a documentary short series that tackles the subject of alcohol use. Now airing on PBS NewsHour, the series is raw and revealing, with residents of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, speaking openly about the cultural factors that both drew them into addiction and allowed them to map out routes to recovery. Your support will help us build more empowerment journalism projects and grow our list of storytellers to ensure that these types of diverse stories are heard.

The latest in the series:

“I want to tell people my story,” a film by the Chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation

Family, sobriety and parenting: an indigenous woman tells her story

Peeling back the veil from the private world of offshore banking

We received a leak of 350,000 documents that illuminate the inner workings of a secretive, exclusive trust company that operated from the Isle of Jersey, a notorious British tax haven in the Channel Islands. The documents fed an international consortium of investigative journalists who coordinated the release of their findings. You can find those reports and the Jersey Offshore investigation here

Support Ongoing Projects

Following the money: How we are paying for the plastics industry

Ongoing construction of the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in January 2019. Photo by: Drums600

Plastic is vital to saving lives in the intensive care unit, protecting frontline workers during the pandemic, and preserving food. It’s destructive when clogging the oceans, commanding massive public subsidies, and literally raining down on us. Through partnerships with local journalists, we are reporting on direct and indirect subsidies of the plastic industry — from upstream chemical and resin suppliers to plastic manufacturers and downstream recyclers. Your support will help us produce an in-depth work of data journalism that follows the trail of subsidies that are shaping the industry’s future.

As global economies grow, so do the rates of preventable diseases

Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, anxiety and depression are skyrocketing in countries that had previously seen few cases. These largely preventable illnesses are tied to changes in diet, physical activity, stress and social isolation – changes connected to global development and the disappearance of traditional ways of life across the globe. The Prosperity Dilemma will empower local journalists and medical specialists to study and explain the root of modern sicknesses. Reporters will draw on a mix of modern medicine, sociology and traditional knowledge to investigate what’s causing these diseases and what measures could be taken to prevent them.

Running Out of Sand: An investigation into sand mining

Photo by Japhet Khendlo on Unsplash

Sand is used in nearly every aspect of our modern lives – from computer chips to toothpastes, and even wines. But by far the highest demand for sand is for construction as we build city after city to accommodate the nearly 65 million people who move to cities every year. We consume nearly $50 billion tons of sand every year, twice as much as a decade ago. This makes sand the most extracted material in the world – well surpassing oil. This unprecedented demand is driving a ‘wild west’ lawlessness in many parts of Asia and Africa where sand is often mined and sold illegally. Licensing is often delegated to local authorities, environmental impact assessments are rare, the minimal regulations that do exist are routinely flouted. We will investigate the many illegal elements and hidden costs of sand mining and expose the reality, consequences and urgency for change.

Supporting Independent Journalism


The Global Reporting Centre stands out in a fractured media landscape as an organization dedicated to changing global reporting through collaboration, education, and advocacy.

We’ve had the most successful year in our four-year history, and are ready to grow our centre to a new level of global leadership in journalism. For that, we need your help.

We’re a nonprofit news outlet — free of ads and paywalls — so we rely on reader donations to help fund our global investigations.

Please keep the GRC in mind for your year-end giving, with a tax-deductible donation.


As the coronavirus pandemic started straining global medical supply chains, we collaborated with some of the leading reporters, scholars and media organizations to investigate why the world was short of masks, ventilators and other critical equipment. Our FRONTLINE and Associated Press documentary is the start of an ongoing project, and is among the many investigations and collaborations at our centre. We need your support to help us tell complex stories, and hold governments and companies accountable. To meet the journalists behind the investigation, join us on November 18th at 9:30 am PST. Register for the Q&A here


We bring journalism and academic students from around the world together to practice and innovate global reporting. By educating the next generation of researchers and reporters, we are helping the media landscape grow and evolve. Our students challenge the norms of global reporting, and produce impactful, award-winning projects. Please support the future of global journalists.


Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

The safety and credibility of reporters is under threat. Our Global Journalist in Residence program gives reporters the opportunity to reflect on and advocate for media freedom. Our research arm is undertaking major studies, like a survey of disinformation attacks on reporters around world. Through hard evidence, we are advocating for protection and change to the increasingly-fragile global media landscape. Please support our efforts to bolster media freedom.

Interactive Learning Opportunities for “America’s Medical Supply Crisis”

FILE - In this July 22, 2020, file photo, people line up behind a health care worker at a mobile coronavirus testing site at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. Although it will take years for researchers to understand why the pandemic was disproportionately worse in the U.S., early studies that compare different countries' responses are finding that U.S. shortages of masks, gloves, gowns, shields, testing kits and other medical supplies indeed cost lives. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Pulitzer Center supported education resources related to “America’s Medical Supply Crisis.” These curricular resources offer a viewing guide and lesson plan for exploring the documentary in class, the opportunity to bring public health journalists into your classroom, and more.