Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro is an NPR international correspondent based in London. An award-winning journalist, his reporting covers a wide range of topics and can be heard on all of NPR's national news programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Prior to his current post, Shapiro reported from the NPR Washington Desk as White House Correspondent during President Barack Obama's first and second terms, as Justice Correspondent during the George W. Bush administration and as a regular guest host on NPR's newsmagazines. He is also a frequent analyst on CNN, PBS, NBC and other television news outlets.

Shapiro's reporting has consistently won national accolades. The Columbia Journalism Review recognized him with a laurel for his investigation into disability benefits for injured American veterans. The American Bar Association awarded him the Silver Gavel for exposing the failures of Louisiana's detention system after Hurricane Katrina. He was the first recipient of the American Judges' Association American gavel Award, recognizing a body of work on U.S. courts and the American justice system. And at age 25, Shapiro won the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for an investigation of methamphetamine use and HIV transmission.

An occasional singer, Shapiro makes guest appearances with the "little orchestra" Pink Martini, whose recent albums feature several of his contributions. Since his debut at the Hollywood Bowl in 2009, Shapiro has performed live at many of the world's most storied venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, L'Olympia in Paris, and Mount Lycabettus in Athens.

Shapiro graduated from Yale University magna cum laude and began his journalism career in the office of NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Let's start with the basics: Stepan Bandera was born in 1909 in what is now western Ukraine. In 1959, the Soviet Union's KGB poisoned Bandera with cyanide and he died in Munich, West Germany.

Between those two dates, black and white quickly fades to gray.

In western Ukraine, many see him as a freedom fighter who battled domination by the Soviet Union and other European powers before and during World War II. They see themselves as the heirs to Bandera's struggle.

I recently took a Ukrainian taxi from the airport to my hotel. The fare should have been $20. The cab driver was adamant that I pay $30. When I finally paid him $30, the driver gave me a receipt with a wink. He'd made it out for $40.

The driver got a cut by overcharging me, and assumed that I would take a cut by overcharging NPR (which I did not).

In Ukraine, corruption is a daily fact of life. It reaches into big business, law enforcement, education and even the smallest transactions between people on the street.

In 2000, Jeff Shesol was nearing the end of his stint as a White House speechwriter for President Clinton. He went to the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, where he met a young staffer from Britain's Labour Party. They struck up a friendship.

"And so almost immediately after the Clinton administration had ended, I got a call to come over and begin writing speeches," Shesol says. "Before long, Labour was in the throes of its campaign, and I was stationed there along with them."

The first time I saw the word "lustration," I thought it was a case of bad translation from Ukrainian. In Kiev, a flyer advertised a talk by the head of parliament's "lustration" committee.

"What does this word mean in English?" I asked a press aide.

"I don't know the English word for it, but it will be an interesting speech," he replied.

And indeed, it was.

Weeks later, Sam Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King's College in London, explained to me that lustration actually is an English word.

Gerry Adams, a leader of Sinn Fein, was questioned in Northern Ireland in connection with an infamous murder 42 years ago. The investigation threatens to impact the fragile peace agreement there.

A development in Eastern Ukraine has set social media on fire and triggered outrage around the world.

In the city of Donetsk, someone distributed fliers ordering Jews to register with the separatists who have taken over government buildings.

Even though nobody in Ukraine believed the leaflet was real, the fliers hit a nerve.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The deal struck in Geneva today aims to end the violence Ukraine has seen over the last few months. There were snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev's Independence Square. In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists forced their way through police barricades to overtake government buildings. But not every protest has been violent. Today, people who oppose the separatists staged a demonstration in the city of Donetsk, and NPR's Ari Shapiro was there.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour with the latest from eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is continuing an operation to oust pro-Russian militants from occupied government buildings, but today, it experienced a setback. Ukraine's defense department confirms that some of its armored personnel carriers began flying the Russian flag. NPR's Ari Shapiro went to investigate.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Tensions remain very high this morning in Eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia demonstrators stormed the city hall in the city of Donetsk. And there are now reports this morning of several Ukrainian armored personnel carriers on the move in some cities flying Russian flags. To try and sort out what's going on, we have NPR's Ari Shapiro on the line. He is in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. Ari, good morning.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, David.

Ukraine's army began a "special operation" in the east of the country Tuesday, moving against pro-Russian militants who are occupying government offices across the region.

At Passover celebrations around the world tonight, the youngest child will sing a song in Hebrew. "Why," the youngster will ask, "is this night different from all other nights?"

Adults in Ukraine can ask a similar question this year: What makes this Passover different from all others? It's a question Rabbi Alexander Duchovny has been thinking about a lot. "Passover is z'man cheruteinu, time of our liberty — time of freedom," he says. "And especially for Ukrainian Jewry, and for Ukrainians, this is a time of liberty."

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. In eastern Ukraine, people are bracing for possible war. The government gave a deadline of this morning for pro-Russian separatists to lay down their weapons. Instead, the demonstrators took over still more government buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities. Ukraine's president has promised to send in the army to retake this region near the Russian border.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports from the city of Donetsk.

At occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine, there is plenty of razor wire, sandbags and Molotov cocktails.

One thing is conspicuously absent, though — law enforcement.

When protests in Eastern Ukraine started on Sunday, police were everywhere.

Ukraine's interim prime minister visited Donetsk Friday in an effort to reduce tensions in the east of the country. Pro-Moscow militants among the area's largely Russian-speaking population have seized two government buildings in the region and are demanding referendums on the area's future. NPR's Ari Shapiro has been behind the barricades at one of the occupations.

In Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk, activists who want to align the country more with Russia seized a regional administration building in the center of town last weekend. NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro went inside the building Friday and reports on what it was like:

The eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk has been the center of a standoff since Sunday, with demonstrators pleading for the city to join Russia, while government leaders insist it will remain part of Ukraine.

In the midst of this tug-of-war, there's a third country that may have a claim on the city — though admittedly, a much looser one.

"God Save The Queen" isn't just the British national anthem, it's also the name of a campaign to bring Donetsk under the sheltering wing of Her Majesty's United Kingdom.

(You read that correctly: the UK. Stay with us here.)

To say that the town of Perewalsk in eastern Ukraine has fallen on hard times would be an enormous understatement. The small industrial town near the Russian border is a collection of concrete buildings with no windows, falling-down houses and empty, abandoned factories; there's a chemical smell in the air.

In the middle of this dystopian landscape, there's an even more unexpected sight: an 80-year-old woman in a bright purple coat and headscarf, happily digging with a shovel in the dirt.

She introduces herself as Lida Vasilivna.

The drive to Luhansk takes you past fields of corn and sunflowers that are just beginning to sprout. You pass the town of Yennakieva, where the ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was born. Eventually the fields give way to factories, and about 15 miles from the border with Russia, you hit the industrial city of Luhansk.

Police have blocked off the center of town. The last few blocks to the heart of the protest, at the occupied security services building, is a journey by foot, past graffiti that say, "Luhansk is a Russian City."

In the eastern city of Donetsk, protesters hung a huge banner declaring a government office building to be the "People's Republic of Donetsk."

These pro-Moscow activists want to pull away from Europe and align Ukraine more with Russia. The protests in Donetsk and elsewhere in eastern Ukraine are the focus of the ongoing crisis in the country and it has international repercussions that reach well beyond the country's borders.

Yet life in the rest of Donetsk is going on completely as normal.

After a long winter of protests, Ukrainian activists overthrew their president in February. Now, Ukrainians are staring at the bill they have to pay.

The International Monetary Fund is demanding that Ukraine's new government implement austerity measures in exchange for loans. Russia is threatening to raise Ukraine's heating gas prices by 80 percent. Taken together, this could further squeeze ordinary Ukrainians, some of whom are already getting by with almost nothing.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, hundreds of people are still camped out in Independence Square known as the Maidan. They say they'll stay, at least through next month's presidential elections, to push for greater reform. In February, violent protests in the Maidan toppled the president and left dozens dead. Today, though, the cloud of black dust over the square was from dozens of brooms sweeping. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. American solidarity with Europe was on display today as President Obama visited Brussels. Days after the Russian annexation of Crimea, the president met with leaders of NATO and the European Union, and he gave a speech to a concern hall packed with university students. In that speech, Obama stood firm on his response to the crisis in Ukraine.

NPR's Ari Shapiro is travelling with the president.

President Obama is in Brussels for meetings with NATO and the European Union. Events on the sideline of Tuesday's nuclear summit at The Hague have eclipsed the nuclear agenda itself.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

President Obama wrapped up a two-day nuclear security summit in The Hague today. He's been operating on two tracks on this trip. At the summit, he's been urging countries to get rid of their nuclear material. On the sidelines, he's been organizing the global community to isolate Russia, following it's annexation of Crimea.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

To the Netherlands now, where more than 50 world leaders are attending a major nuclear summit. That group includes President Obama who landed in Amsterdam this morning. The crisis in Ukraine hangs over this trip, as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports from The Hague.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Moments after Air Force One touched down, President Obama was walking through the cavernous hallways of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam's temple to fine art.

PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE: (Foreign language spoken)

Pages