“Missiles are hitting now and they’re hitting military buildings,” Harrigan said today in a phone interview with Deadline. “That’s powerful. A lot of people are scared, and they’re driving out. There’s a lot of traffic. But when [the Russians] come in, that’s when it could get really bad….They’re probably going to try and capture the President and to do that they’ve got to get in here. I’ve seen urban combat before, in Grozny in Chechnya. When armored vehicles come into cities, they often don’t do well at all. They get attacked from apartment buildings and windows and balconies.”
Harrigan, a veteran of past Russian and Middle East conflicts who has been with Fox News since 2001, reported from a hotel rooftop early Thursday, local time, as he could hear the first explosions followed by a slight orange glow. “Certainly a terrifying night for people here,” he said on air. “Ukrainians, many of them in disbelief that they could be fighting with their neighbor, many relatives, families intertwined, and yet it’s come to this.”
Harrigan told Deadline that “we had been warned like six or seven times, ‘The attack is going to come now,’ so you’re pretty much ready for it. And I told a security guard to wake me up if it happened. And he just knocked on my door [at the hotel] and said, ‘Oh Steve, the explosions are happening, you have got to come upstairs now. …It was really sort of casual. You put your vest on and you go up and that’s that.”
So far, Harrigan said, even with the imposition of martial law, Ukrainian officials have not restricted journalists’ movements. In fact, Harrigan said, it has been just the opposite, as foreign journalists don’t need accreditation, as “they want the word out as much as possible.”
“So they basically said you can go anywhere and do anything and you don’t need accreditation, just like they’re saying, ‘If you want to fight we will give you a weapon.’ It’s sort of no holds barred at this desperate hour,'” he said.
Safety concerns are ever present, he said, and the “biggest fear is that you’re going to be laying in bed and a missile is going hit your room.” In other words, being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” So far, Russian missiles striking Kyiv have hit precise military targets but, he noted, “in other places, they’re firing rockets, which do hit apartment buildings. So are they going to be more careful in the capital?” Depending on how dangerous the situation gets, an option may be to report from the hotel’s basement, three levels below, but that also has its challenges.
“I think you have to overcome fear, and I think it’s really nice if you’re with veterans who’ve been through it before, because I think fear is contagious,” he said. “And when you’re with people who’ve done it, you look to them and you look to each other. You’re in a way going in battle yourself. You’re not fighting, but you feel a sense of adrenaline. And when you’re with good people, it makes it a little easier. Like if you’re, with you know, grizzled veterans who have been in the West Bank and Gaza, in Afghanistan and all over, you look to them and with a head nod. They’ve been there, you’ve been there, and it just makes it a little easier. You’re not alone.”
As compared to other wars he’s covered, what is unusual in this conflict is that it is so centered on the actions of just one man, Vladimir Putin.
“It really seems to be about one person’s grievances, which is moving the world,” Harrigan said. “Vladimir Putin’s anger about the collapse of the Soviet Union is moving the world. The fact he left East Germany with a huge washing machine, and was humiliated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is shaping the world right now and putting the entire world at risk. The power at one man’s disposal is just chilling.”
Still, as Harrigan was reporting on the start of the attacks for Fox News’ overnight coverage, he did raise the prospect that, if this turns into an extended conflict, with street fighting and insurgency, it could lead to the “downfall of Vladimir Putin.”
“It’s probably an opinion, and it certainly could be wrong,” Harrigan told Deadline. “But I think we’ve seen in history that starting a war of choice can often lead to the downfall of a country or a civilization. And I think this could be one of those examples. I mean, you could say the [Soviets’] Afghanistan war helped bring the fall of communism, and this war could help bring the fall of Putinism.”