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Seven months of hell. Slobozhansky counterattack in the photographs of Yevhen Malolietka

Ukrainian servicemen in liberated Izyum. September 15, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


On September 6, 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine launched a counterattack in the Kharkiv region. Already on September 8, the Ukrainian military liberated twenty settlements, including Balakleya, Kupyansk and Izyum. In the second half of September, the Ukrainian Armed Forces broke through the Russian front line along the Oskol River and crossed to its left bank. Due to the unexpected breakthrough of the positions of the Russian invaders, by September 12, the Ukrainian military liberated a significant part of the Kharkov region.


Today, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photographs of Yevhen Malolietka, who documented the liberation of the Kharkov region from the Russian army.

 

Counteroffensive

 

On August 29, Ukraine announced an imminent counteroffensive in southern Ukraine. The message was part of a disinformation campaign aimed at diverting Russian troops from Kharkiv. Russia has relocated thousands of its troops, including elite units, to the Kherson region, leaving its troops in Kharkiv significantly weakened and vulnerable to attack.


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Slobozhansky counterattack of the Defense Forces of Ukraine began on September 6, 2022. Having concentrated the necessary forces north of Balakliya in the Verbovka area, the Ukrainian troops went on the offensive in the directions of Balakliya - Volokhov Yar - Shevchenkovo - Kupyansk and east of Balakliya. The next day, September 7, the Armed Forces advanced at least 20 km into the territory controlled by the Russian Federation and recaptured about 400 square kilometers of Kharkiv region.


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


The Institute for the Study of War (IWS), based in Washington, said in a report on September 7: "Probably on September 7, Ukrainian troops used a tactical surprise to advance at least 20 km into Russian-controlled territory in the east of the Kharkiv region, recapturing approximately 400 square kilometers of territory." Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Valery Zaluzhny stressed that Balakleya was an important communications hub in the south of the Kharkov region. Zaluzhny noted that the de-occupation of the city created favorable conditions for the development of the offensive on Kupyansk.


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Burial


As a result of the unexpected breakthrough of the positions of the Russian invaders, the Ukrainian military liberated a significant part of the Kharkov region. On September 8, the city of Balakliya was liberated. On September 10, Kupyansk and Izyum were recaptured by Ukrainian troops advancing to Liman. The New York Times noted that "the fall of the strategically important city of Izyum, in eastern Ukraine, is the lowest blow for the Russian Federation since its humiliating retreat from Kyiv." When Ukrainian troops entered the cities of Balakliya and Izyum, they discovered numerous mass grave sites.


Mass grave in the city of Izyum. September 15, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Police and forensic experts carry out the exhumation of bodies in the forest near the city of Izum, where they found a mass grave. Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


"Together with the Ukrainian authorities, we found a cemetery with mass graves near the liberated city of Izyum, where there were hundreds of graves. It is unknown who was buried there and how all these people died. However, witnesses and a Ukrainian investigator said that someone was shot dead, while others died as a result of artillery shelling, mines or air strikes," photographer Yevhen Malolietka wrote on social networks.


On September 12, the Defense Forces liberated the villages of Bolshoi Burluk and Dvorichnaya, entered Svyatogorsk in the north of the Donetsk region. The Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated almost the entire Kharkov region, with the exception of the strip beyond the Oskol River. On September 13, the Ukrainian military created a bridgehead across the Oskol River near the village of Borovaya. By mid-September, Ukrainian troops broke through the Russian defense line along the Oskol River and on September 17, the Armed Forces of Ukraine moved to the left bank of the Oskol. On September 18, the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the military governor of the Luhansk region Sergey Gaidai confirmed in their Telegram channels that Ukraine had crossed and controlled the left bank of the Oskol. On September 30, Ukrainian troops liberated Yampol, a key village 8 km southeast of Liman. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's counterattacks prove that the Ukrainian military can quickly end the war with more Western weapons.


Military


The photographer recalls how he and his colleagues were driving in Kharkiv on a road that was completely strewn with debris. "We saw refueling and remnants of equipment. At first glance, it was not clear whose she was. From the car window I saw a body lying symmetrically between the refueling columns. He came closer and saw a pixel of a Ukrainian soldier. The body is wounded, the black buff is stretched over the eyes, "recalls Yevgeny Maloletka. I saw the silhouettes of the military walking along the road. My colleagues and I came up, met. It turned out that this is a search team for 200. Three boys recognized their friend. The reaction was instant. Roma threw the PKM, covered his face with his hands so as not to cry, and hesitantly sat on a part of the M-ki (an analogue of the BMP from NATO). "


The military recognized their brother Nikolai. October 3, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Killed Russian military near Liman. October 3, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


Yevhen Malolietka says that the military recognized their brother Nikolai. The guy died during the battle for the road junction - there on the Ukrainian military tanks of the Russian army worked from two directions, not to mention mines. "The guys put their friend in the trailer and went looking for others," the photographer says.


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


"The Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated many settlements during the Kharkiv counter-offensive. Now civilians are trying to recover from the Russian occupation. However, returning to normal life will require many forces and things that need to be done. People lived without water, gas, electricity and mobile communications for seven months, "said Yevhen Malolietka in his social networks.


Photo by Yevhen Malolietka


 

Photographer Yevhen Malolietka is a Ukrainian photojournalist who became widely known for his photo essay about the blockade of Mariupol during Russia's invasion of Ukraine in March 2022.

Winner of the 2022 James Knight International Journalism Awards from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), as well as winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service (2023), winner of the 2023 World Press Photo of the Year.


Social networks:


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 being implemented thanks to the support of The Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.


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