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The most difficult winter. Serhiy Korovainyi's photos about darkness and light in Ukrainian cities

People cross the road in the dark during a power outage in winter 2022. Photo by Serhiy Korovainyi


On October 10, 2022, the Russian military began massive shelling of Ukraine's energy infrastructure. In November, a blackout occurred when all power units at Ukrainian-controlled nuclear power plants were shut down. This was the beginning of the most difficult winter in the history of independent Ukraine.


Today, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers is publishing photos by Serhiy Korovainyi taken during the blackouts in different cities of Ukraine.


Bringing light


The Russian army began massively shelling Ukraine's energy infrastructure in the fall of 2022. The Office of the Prosecutor General reported that during the first year of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war, the Russian military hit energy facilities 255 times. Most problems with energy supply were in Donetsk, Dnipro, and Kyiv regions.


Cars drive in the dark during power outages in Dnipro in winter 2022. Photo by Serhiy Korovainyi


Due to Russia's massive shelling of Ukraine last fall, maneuvering power - electricity generated by thermal power plants and combined heat and power plants - suffered the most.


People near the Black Sea during power outages in Odesa in winter 2022. Photo by Serhiy Korovainyi


Nuclear power plants are still the main source of electricity for Ukraine. Despite the occupation of Zaporizhzhia NPP, nuclear power plants generate more than half of Ukraine's electricity. The Russian military did not strike directly at the nuclear power plant, but instead shelled substations and power lines.


Only one street is lit in Kyiv's Podil neighborhood during power outages in the winter of 2022. Photo by Serhii Korovainyi


In addition to power generating facilities, distribution stations are an important part of the power system. In 2023, 42 out of 94 critical high-voltage transformers were destroyed or damaged, according to a UN report. The last link in the power grid is the power lines, which have also been damaged by shelling.


Cars drive past Derzhprom in Kharkiv during power outages in the winter of 2022. Photo by Serhiy Korovainyi


Save the light


Over the past fall and winter, photographer Serhiy Korovainyi has been taking pictures of Ukrainian cities that were left without electricity for some time. "I went to different dark cities, I was in Dnipro, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv. I filmed at my home, filmed at my friends' houses, and watched people go through these dark times," says Korovainyi. He adds that the experience was very strange, and the blackout period sometimes seemed even cozy.


"I was constantly thinking that it would be better if these missiles hit critical infrastructure rather than the military at the front. I'm not sure if this is the right idea. Civilians were and are still being killed by Russian shelling," explains Serhiy Korovainyi.


Cars drive on a dark street during a power outage in Kyiv in the winter of 2022. Photo by Serhiy Korovainyi


 

Sergiy Korovainy is a Ukrainian documentary photographer who actively covers the events of the Russian-Ukrainian war. He collaborates with international publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Guardian, Financial Times, and others. In his projects, he focuses on the Russian-Ukrainian war, ecology, and various aspects of Ukrainian modernity. He studied in the United States at the Master's Program in Visual Storytelling as a Fulbright Scholar. In 2018, he joined The Gate, a leading Ukrainian photo agency. Sergiy's work has been exhibited at numerous solo and group exhibitions in Ukraine, the US and the EU.


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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 being implemented thanks to the support of ЗМІN.


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