By Martin Zeilig
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the team behind Mriya Report has been broadcasting live, 24/7, on Twitter Spaces—the modern equivalent to live global radio.
(Ed. note: Twitter Spaces is “a way to have live audio conversations on Twitter. Anyone can join, listen and speak in a Space on Twitter for IOS and Android.To find out more about how you can listen to Capt. Friedberg and his many guests simply Google “Twitter Spaces.”)
Founded by Yehuda Friedberg (Yehuda@yamzallagh), a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces, in early 2022, the space has become an indispensable source of information on the illegal and unprovoked war of aggression being waged by the Russian Federation against democratic Ukraine.
Akaash Maharaj, Ambassador-at-large for the Global Organization of Parliamentarians (GOPAC), is a regular guest on the MR. He leads GOPAC’s project on international prosecution of Crimes against Humanity, its work on reconciliation in post-conflict states, and its efforts to strengthen integrity in the global sport system. He is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, a Senior Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
“The Mriya Report is an extraordinary source of first-hand and expert information about the war in Ukraine,” Mr. Maharaj, a graduate of Oxford University, said in an email to this reporter.
“The speakers have included soldiers and civilians on the ground in Ukraine, military and diplomatic experts, political leaders, and humanitarian workers. It has given people across the world an unfiltered window into the realities of the war, and access to the kind of deep insights and analysis that are rare outside of universities and government situation rooms.”
Capt. Friedberg, who lives in Toronto, Ontario, consented to an email interview with The JP&N.
JP&N: What are the origins of the Mriya Report?
YF: It is surprising for most that so many people, from various backgrounds and walks of life, managed to find one another online and create this amazing information space. It is just as surprising to myself and the Mriya Report team.
We are a team of friends of Ukraine, volunteers from around the world, providing round-the-clock news and commentary on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We work to keep Ukraine front of mind.
Collectively, we support a charity organization formed in the wake of the full-scale invasion by a number of Canadians and Ukrainians from all walks of life.
For me it all began with the NATO mission winding down in Afghanistan by mid-2021. I was a 44-year-old father with a young family living in Toronto. My daily routine was as normal as most who have toddlers: Wake up, get kids ready, work, pick up kids, prepare dinner, relax, and sleep; then repeat.
When it became apparent that there would be an exodus of Afghans fleeing the Taliban, I think many people became concerned about what would happen to the generation of Afghans who grew up learning about democracy, the freedom of expression, the right to believe what you want. I, like many others, felt helpless to really do much about it. All we could do was watch.
This is when the story gets interesting.
So my day job is a little different than most perhaps. I am an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). I will take this time to make it very clear that everything I have done and continue to do in my personal time, is strictly voluntary, and does not represent the CAF in any capacity. However, my beliefs are in line with the ethos that any reasonable, just, and considerate person should hold.
It started with a pizza deliveryman, whom I befriended and who then told me his mother was the last Jew in Afghanistan. He said her life was in danger for hiding the remaining Jews before her, and asked if I could do anything to help. That story in itself is another matter. I was able to facilitate the family of 35 in leaving Afghanistan for safety.
Over the last year and a half, I have assisted in the evacuation of 1500 Afghan refugees, translators, female leaders and other vulnerable persons. This includes the last Jewish Afghan family, who are now in Canada except 10 members still stuck in the UAE.
During the course of my work I grew a considerable network of like-minded people.
When the situation in Ukraine started to become clear, Lieutenant-Colonel Melanie Lake and I created an NGO called Mriya Aid. This group provides non-lethal support for the government of Ukraine. Simultaneously, I created an online podcast through Twitter, called the Mriya Report.
JP&N: How many people worldwide listen to the MR?
YF: The Mriya Report has had over 150 million impressions, and we operate 24/7 week for 8 months, an information campaign to assist and support Ukrainians. In that time I have built a team of 40 volunteers worldwide, journalists, audio engineers, and former military officers etc… The following is a partial list of who I have had on our show, many of whom are on daily now as expert analysts:
· Lt Gen Ben Hodges (On our show weekly) and Lt Gen Mark Hertling (both former Commanders of the US Army in Europe);
· Anton Gerashchenko – Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine;
· Maj Gen Mick Ryan AM (Commander of the Australian Defense College);
· Maj Gen Pekka Toveri (former Chief of Finnish Military Intelligence);
· Lt Col Rup Rawlings; Retired USMC officer;
· Lt Col Alexander Vindman, and a wide number of other experts – including foreign policy researchers, elected officials, energy policy experts, and even an astronaut (Cdr Scott Kelly);
· Col John Spencer, West Point professor and world’s foremost Urban Operations specialist. (He is on daily); and
· Lt (N) Chuck Pfarrer, Former Navy Seal commander, Seal Team 6. He brought to justice the terrorist who killed Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro. (He is on daily)
We have also promoted a number of Ukrainian voices, including human rights advocate Taras Ratushnyy; Dariia Tsykunova (partner of Ilya, an Azovstal defender imprisoned by Russians and now released); Alexander Kamyshin, the CEO of Ukrainian Railway; Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, who formerly Headed the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and is now a Member of the Verkhovna Rada; Ministers;
Plus numerous Ukrainian Cabinet ministers, Presidential advisors, medical specialists, psychologists and surgeons.
JP&N: What else would you like to share with our readers?
YF: We are also in the process of setting up several unique processes to assist the Ukrainians in their efforts, and anti-fraud organizations for NGOs to best deliver goods, and a logistics hub in Kyiv to facilitate efficient transfer of non-lethal goods with even greater fidelity.
As well, members of Harvard and Stanford universities have reached out to me in the information space, and we began a project to produce a digitalized map of Ukraine, with input from geo technicians worldwide, both professional and amateur, in conjunction with satellite imagery companies.
The intent is to create a corpus of digital data that can be used currently and for future studies and investigations. It will include damage to cultural and heritage sites, civilian infrastructure, possible locations of war crimes atrocities, exit route for human trafficking, and a multitude of other uses. The geo spatial lab at Harvard has obtained blessings from its provost to create a plan in order to create this collaboration, which would be stewarded by the major institutions of higher learning. We meet weekly to discuss this roll out and to bring on relevant stakeholders.
This endeavour will ultimately be stewarded by these major institutions of higher learning.We have also received buy-in and support from several major medical/hospital groups in North America to treat Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, either free of charge, or at cost. We are currently working with Natalia Kalmykova at the Minister of Veterans Affairs Ukraine to assist in the triage for those patients.
Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask for more help from our audience. If you are able to assist in any of the above efforts, we would be glad to take on more volunteers.
I want you to know that our team and I do this for one reason: To help Ukraine. To stop a genocide. We see growing movements of totalitarianism and authoritarians on the rise worldwide. We want to do something about it. It starts with me, it starts with you.