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Attack on Chernihiv. The aftermath of the rocket attack on the city centre, photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

The damaged building of the drama theatre in Chernihiv, 19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

On the morning of 19 August 2023, the Russian army launched a missile attack on the centre of Chernihiv. The missile hit the historic city centre, including the building of the drama theatre.

The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photographs by Oleh Petrasyuk, who documented the aftermath of the Russian military's attack on the centre of Chernihiv.

A day in Chernihiv

On 19 August 2023, at around 11:30 a.m., a Russian Iskander-K cruise missile struck the historic centre of Chernihiv. It hit the Chernihiv Regional Music and Drama Theatre. At that time, the theatre was hosting the "Angry Birds" event, a meeting of attack drone developers. Drone manufacturers and the military were invited to the event, which was open to the public.

The missile strike killed seven people, including a six-year-old child. At least 150 people were injured. Houses in the centre of the city, parked cars and public transport sustained various damages. The area was littered with shards of glass and bricks.

19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

Photographer Oleh Petrasyuk and his colleagues arrived at the scene two hours after the missile strike. "I read the news, waited for my colleagues, got in the car and drove away. It was not our first and, unfortunately, not the last such trip. There were no special emotions or impressions," says Oleg Petrasyuk.

"We arrived a few hours after the explosion: paramedics had already taken away all the dead and wounded, forensic experts had done their job, and firefighters were still extinguishing the remains of the fire," Petrasyuk recalls. The photographer spoke to local residents of Chernihiv, who showed him their destroyed homes and allowed him to take photos of the panorama of the square in front of the theatre. "People talked to journalists calmly, without aggression. There was no such rejection of the press as at the beginning of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war," says Oleg Petrasyuk. "People invited us to their apartments, but refused to take pictures.

19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

The photographer notes that after shooting in Bucha, Borodyanka and other places liberated by the Ukrainian military, his impressions and feelings were mixed. "Shooting the aftermath of rocket attacks is perceived as just a job that needs to be done as best as possible and without unnecessary feelings," explains Oleg Petrasiuk. "I photographed the destruction in the central square of Chernihiv, where I have been on business trips many times. Chernihiv is not far from Kyiv, and there are places where I liked to eat, which I passed by many times..."

19 August 2023. Photo by Oleh Petrasyuk

Oleh Petrasyuk spent almost a whole day photographing the aftermath of the missile attack on Chernihiv. "I came to document an event that had already happened. I was filming the aftermath of the explosion, so I had time to walk around, take close-up shots and look at everything from the outside. If I had come for just 10 minutes, I would probably have taken 90 per cent of the shots I needed. However, it's that 10 per cent that makes the difference between a photographer who works to the fullest. I always try to push the shoot to the end, and the work in Chernihiv was no exception," says Oleg Petrasyuk.


Oleg Petrasyuk is a Ukrainian documentary photographer. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, he has been documenting the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war. His work has been published in many Ukrainian and foreign media, and he has worked with the EPA Images agency.


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As a reminder, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has launched a series of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where it publishes memoirs and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.

The project is implemented thanks to the support of IWM Documenting Ukraine.

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