Rolling into Ukraine – gaining access to the ATO zone

Ukraine’s war is a rare topic of discussion and reportage which is odd considering application for a frontline press card and security clearance is rather straight forward. It lacks the ambiguity of others such as Iraq where you cannot pass without hiring a fixer who has contacts in the military.

Instruction for how to apply can be found directly on the SSU’s website with comprehensive explanations in a step by step tutorial. Effectively, you will need to prove you are an active journalist with works demonstrated online or as tear sheets to verify your role as a newsgatherer.

Image courtesy of UA Crisis Centre

You will need –

  • A valid passport
  • A letter from a commissioning editor detailing your story or contact details for one you have worked with in the past
  • Certificate of qualification (optional)
  • A press card for your country of origin (This is also optional but beneficial as they are generally recognised by the police in your country of origin)

Any certificates or qualifications can further prove the validity of your cause to be there. Ensure you provide contact details for your commissioning editor or alternatively if you are travelling to capture stock footage/photographs an editor you have work with in the past.

Photograph courtesy of The Irish Times/Ty Faruki

Once you have gathered the aforementioned you must scan and email them to alongside a letter detailing (essentially pitching) what you aim to cover, where you are going and how long you plan to be there including dates and locations.

Once this has been completed and you have received your accreditation from the SSU, the next step is to submit proof of this (via email) to the ATO press centre.

Forward the accreditation email to, and in a maximum of 2 working days you should receive a reply telling you a press card is ready for collection.

You can collect your press card from either the Kyiv or Kramatorsk press centres. At the time of writing this, Kyiv’s press centre is currently closed.

You will need to show your passport as proof of identification. They should provide you with a lanyard, though purchase one in case they do not. The ink on most press cards (worldwide) wears off in a matter of days if used on a constant basis.

Once you have received clearance to collect your press card you must submit your travel route to the press centre allowing you to pass through each check point. If you do not, you will be refused entry.

Any changes/mistakes in the information provided must be submitted right away. Once you have completed this, ensure you have a driver/translator/fixer ready. If you are struggling to obtain one, contact us and we will try to arrange one for you. Rates range from £150 per day upwards.

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