I advise extreme caution before viewing these photos.
For my Donbass event in London, I compiled my ‘20 best‘ photos for auction. Here, my 20 ‘worst’ photos. 20 of the most terrible things I photographed in my time reporting in Donbass.
Lugansk, August 24th, 2014. Natasha struggles to come to terms with her own serious injuries, from Ukrainian shelling as they queued for humanitarian aid. She also struggles with how she will tell her daughter Marina, 7, also hit, that she won’t be able to dance after having her leg blown off.
She never had to tell Marina that, doctors couldn’t save her, Natasha’s daughter died the next morning.
Early September 2014, by Novosvetlovka, Lugansk region, I found the remnants of a refugee bus hit by shelling. 17 were killed as they tried to flee the war-torn region on August 18th, including several children. All the evidence I found on site pointed to a Ukrainian attack. On September 2nd, the Ukrainians had retreated from their positions by the bus, but the human remains were still there.
This man’s face, frozen in a scream, the truck hit by unexpected artillery attack –
Here, a small skeleton. The charred remains of a child.
In their near 2 weeks right by the bodies, the Ukrainians apparently hadn’t moved any. The victims took skeletal form, flesh also lay there, in a truly gruesome scene under the glaring sun.
Lugansk in summer 2014, no electricity, meaning no refrigerators at the morgue. And so many bodies (over 350 a month a worker there told me), no space inside either. So, bodies put outside, this man, covered in thousands of swarming maggots, his head entirely eaten away – this September 6th –
This, Donetsk’s Kievsky region, October 5th 2014. A car hit by shelling as it drove, the owner killed, part of what looks to be brain still on the car floormat, splattered with blood, other parts of human matter.
Donetsk, October 8th 2014, double figures each day killed by Ukrainian shelling. Bodies stacked high at the city morgue.
November 5th 2014, Donetsk, a 14-year-old boy killed by Ukrainian shelling, as he played football with friends at a school in the city. His young body simply strafed by shrapnel, covered in gaping wounds.
This man, Alexander Agafonov, returning to Donetsk with his wife and 3-month old child on 14th November 2014. Stopped, searched at an Izyum blockpost by Ukraine’s SBU, who apparently then found text messages between Alexander, a 36-year-old civilian, and a friend in the Donbass militia. For this, they detained him, tortured him. Tortured him to death. His wife returned to Donetsk with the child Alexander would only ever know for a few hours, he came to the morgue.
Donetsk, January 2015. A brutal month in the city. Relentless Ukrainian shelling of civilian areas, you would arrive at the city’s Kubishevsky region, by the airport, shelling hitting all around. And bodies lying in the street, often for some time due to the dangers of removing them, and simply few people there to do that. This old man on January 14th, recently killed by shelling.
January 20th 2015 in Donetsk’s Kievsky region. This old man realises he has been struck by shelling, takes his handkerchief to wipe away the blood, but it’s too much. He drops dead.
This, Donetsk’s Kirovsky region, on January 21st. Ukrainian shelling struck this area, killing two civilians at the scene. This man, blown to pieces, here, his foot left in his boot, hit as he walked.
This man, nearby, also killed. Something shocking about this photo, as locals milled around – just how accustomed people in Donetsk had become to death.
Donetsk, January 22nd. Horrific scenes as a trolleybus was hit in the city’s Leninsky district, killing a number of civilians estimated from 8-12, seriously wounding many more. After the bodies were removed, the bus afterwards, a horrific scene, covered in blood, human matter.
Donetsk morgue, January 22nd, 2015. A reminder that those civilians killed in shelling were just going about their lives. This man, still clutching his keys in his hand –
His mutilated legs here, a reminder of what shelling does to the human body –
January 30th 2015, Donetsk’s Kievsky region. Ukrainian shelling strikes people as they queue for humanitarian aid. This woman’s head blown open, a loaf of bread at her feet –
This woman arrives at the scene to find her husband killed, blown to pieces in fact.
It’s very hard to look at these photos. I can remember taking each one. Behind each one of them, a tragic story. Tragically, due to the western media largely ignoring Ukrainian shelling of civilian areas of Donbass, a story many in the west simply don’t know.