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9 Ukrainian photographers tell and show how the great invasion began

With this material, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers begins a cycle of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where we will publish the memories and photos of Ukrainian documentary photographers.


On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The main events of this day were missile strikes on the cities of Ukraine, the breakthrough of Russian troops in the north, south and east.


03:30 – 03:59: the first Russian sabotage and intelligence groups are trying to enter the territory of Ukraine. Regular units of the State Border Service engage in battle with them. The DRG is being followed by regular units of the Russian armed forces, active fighting is taking place in the area of the village of Zorynivka in the Luhansk region, as well as at the Kalanchak checkpoint - the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea.


04:50: Russian dictator Vladimir Putin issued an address to Russians announcing the start of a "special military operation in Ukraine".


Photographer Yevhen Maloletka together with his colleague Mstislav Chernov met the war in Mariupol. He recalls that they arrived in the city an hour before the full-scale war. The road from Bakhmut to Mariupol took almost the whole night.


We were driving and there was complete silence, although mortars were fired the day before, and the artillery responded. We saw that the troops had already taken up combat positions. You understand, if there is silence - there will be a new wave. That's why everyone was waiting," he recalls.

Photo: Evgeny Maloletka


05:00: in the morning, Russian troops attack Ukraine along the entire border line - in the Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr regions, from the side of the temporarily occupied Crimea, Donbass, and also enter Kyiv and the Kyiv region from the side of Belarus. Missile strikes were carried out in Kharkiv, Odesa, Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Brovary, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, more than 150 missiles were fired.


07:40: the Russian occupiers are going to break through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Guards of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant engage in battle with Russian terrorists.


Photographer Andriy Dubchak met the war on February 24 at the "Mir" hotel in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region. He remembers that he woke up from the phone call of his wife Liza, who informed about the beginning of the war.


“To be honest, I took this news a little too calmly. I knew there would be an invasion. I knew that activation was inevitable. Because even at that moment the front had already changed and the "OOS" that I knew no longer existed. During the week before the invasion, he came under fire twice, the activity of which was off the scale by the standards of those "before" times," says the photographer.

Photo: Andriy Dubchak


Around 08:00: it is known that five planes and one helicopter of the Russian invaders were shot down. The Verkhovna Rada voted to introduce martial law in Ukraine from February 24. The decision was approved by 300 deputies.


Photographer Sergey Korovainy on the eve of the full-scale Russian invasion, he worked in Severodonetsk. After Putin's speech, the photographer decided to leave Donbas in order not to be in the epicenter of hostilities.


“On February 23, I was in Kharkiv. We stayed up late talking with friends. There was a feeling that something terrible was about to begin. I succumbed to this atmosphere and went to bed in my clothes. I woke up from the explosions," he says.

Photo: Sergey Korovainy


Around 10:00: Russian troops were spotted on the Ring Road near Kharkiv. They set up roadblocks, barricades, and tanks there, and an hour later they try to break through to the city itself. However, they encounter stubborn resistance from the defenders of the city.

Photo: Max Levin


Around 11:00: the defenders of Zmiiny Island in the south of Ukraine refuse to surrender, even in the face of the threat of Russian fire from the cruiser "Moskva" and the landing of the occupiers. The legendary phrase "Russian warship, go to hell" sounds somewhat prophetic - on April 14, 2022, the cruiser will pass in this direction directly to the bottom of the sea.


DSNS photographer Pavlo Petrov recalls that his shift fell on February 23, 2022. It was on this day that a state of emergency was declared throughout the country. And I met the big invasion on the sofa in the room.


"There were really no emotions, because everything was clear to me. And nothing new - because I myself am from Luhansk region. And then everything turned around. All over the country there is shelling," says Pavlo.

Photo: Pavlo Petrov


12:40: reported about the battles for Gostomel and the attempt of the Russians to seize the Antonov airfield. The battles for the settlement and airfield are being waged by an incomplete brigade of the National Guard of the Armed Forces of Ukraine against more than 50 helicopters and Russian special forces. After a three-hour battle, the brigade withdraws, firing mortars at the airstrip.


Lviv-based photographer Yurko Dyachishyn recalls that he did not believe in the possibility of war at all and took the first news about Russian aggression to be a fake.

At that time, I was sick and in bad physical shape, but the reporter's reflex worked, that I needed to go shoot, what exactly I didn't understand yet, I packed my camera, got dressed and sat down in my clothes in in the corridor, expecting that explosions would start somewhere now, or an air force would land, or something else, and that's when the air-raid siren sounded for the first time," Dyachishyn describes that morning.

Photo: Yurko Dyachishyn


13:00: Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov addressed the Ukrainian people.

All who are ready to take up arms, join the ranks of the Terrodefense Forces. We give weapons to all patriots who are ready to use them against the enemy without hesitation!" he said.


Distribution of vending machines to everyone in Kyiv and Kharkiv begins; in the capital alone, more than 20,000 automatic weapons are handed out in a few hours.


Kyiv photographer Volodymyr Petrov says that on February 24 he woke up around 4 a.m. from explosions in Kyiv.

“I was literally thrown in bed, I jumped to the side, away from the window, grabbed the phone and ran to the bathroom, away from the windows. There I started reading the news and monitoring chats with my friends and fellow photojournalists," recalls Petrov.

During the day, Petrov drove around Kyiv, photographed what was happening and tried to study the situation. In the evening, he arranged a bedroom and a mini-office in the bathroom.



Photo: Volodymyr Petrov


16:30 – 17:00: it becomes known about the Russian strikes on Okhtyrka. Battles begin for Okhtyrka, Trostyanets, and Sumy is actually under siege.


Photographer Alina Smutko was in Kyiv on February 24, 2022. She recalls that she did not expect such a development of events, and only packed the alarming suitcase due to numerous requests from friends.

“I just occasionally went outside with a camera. At that time, I had no idea what kind of damage this or that type of weapon could cause and how safe it is to be outside in general. My colleagues and I ran out for coffee at a coffee shop that still worked on Khreschatyk and Independence Square, Alina says. - I took several photos of deserted Khreschatyk and Maidan. There was a feeling that these could be my last photos of Kyiv".

Photo: Alina Smutko


17:30: a reconnaissance platoon of the 74th motorized rifle brigade of the Russian armed forces was captured near Chernigov; the Russians surrendered voluntarily.


19:00: Mikhail Podolyak, adviser to the head of the President's Office, reports that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been captured by the Russians, and the Ukrainian military has been forced to lay down its arms.


Photographer Mykhailo Palinchak woke up to the explosions on February 24, 2022. He recalls that he was torn between the desire to record the first minutes of the war and the need to protect his relatives.

Photo: Volodymyr Petrov


“My main task for the day was to send my eldest son to Uzhhorod as soon as possible. It wasn't until the very evening that I was able to do it and finally focused on documenting," says Palinchak.

Photo: Mykhailo Palinchak


Around 21:00: reports are received that Russian paratroopers have been knocked out of Gostomel, which they managed to temporarily capture. However, the Snake Island was captured by the invaders after a fierce battle.


About 23:00: the Russian convoys reached Konotop in the Sumy region, where they were repulsed. Later, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will arrange a very "fun" night for the Russians - the photo of the columns of burned "liberators" will quickly spread on the Internet.


Kharkiv photographer Pavel Dorogy was informed by his mother about the beginning of the war by phone, she lived in Saltivka at the time, and therefore heard and saw the first explosions in the city.


I told her last night that it could be fireworks. Then I started to read the news and correspond with my friends and realized that no, these are not fireworks. It was a very strange feeling, birds are singing outside my window, there is snow, there is beauty, and in the news there is some kind of wild game," explains Dorogoi.

The photographer remembers that on this day he photographed soldiers from the 92nd brigade who arrived at Saltivka. And I also saw the first shot down Russian armored personnel carrier.

Photo: Pavlo Dorogoi


23:59: The first day of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war is ending.


The chronicle of events is prepared on the basis of materials Wikipedia, Ukrainian Pravda and Public.


The project is implemented thanks to the support of ZMIN.

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