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The war for light. The aftermath of the attack on Kharkiv CHPP-5 in the photos of Konstantin and Vlada Liberov

Rescuers are eliminating the consequences of an attack on CHP-5 in Kharkiv. September 11, 2022. Photo by Konstantin Liberov

On September 11, 2022, the Russian military attacked CHPP-5 in Kharkiv and two facilities near the city. This led to a temporary loss of power supply in several regions at once. Two employees of Ukrenergo were killed at Kharkiv CHPP-5 that evening. Photographers Konstantin and Vlada Liberov were in Kharkiv and filmed the aftermath of the shelling of the city's power system.

"The feeling of Armageddon"

On the evening of Sunday, September 11, 2022, Russian troops launched sea- or air-launched cruise missiles. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Ukrainian air defense systems managed to destroy 9 out of 12 missiles. Russian troops shelled the Zmiiv thermal power plant and Kharkiv CHP-5, where an administrative building was partially destroyed and a huge fire broke out. The shelling killed four power engineers and injured three others.

Kharkiv CHPP-5 is on fire. Two Ukrenergo employees were killed that night. September 11, 2022. Photo by Konstantin Liberov

As a result of missile strikes in Kharkiv and most of the region, power was cut off, and pumps that supply water to homes did not work without electricity. Hundreds of residents of Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Sumy and Donetsk regions were temporarily left without electricity. However, the power supply was restored in a very short time - in a few hours.

Photographers Konstantin and Vlada Liberova were documenting the large-scale counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Kharkiv region and rented an apartment in Kharkiv. "We were in the apartment and saw two very bright flashes one after the other. The power went out, the internet and communication went down. The whole city went black at once," recalls photographer Vlada Liberova. "There was a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world, it was impossible to know whether the power went out only in Kharkiv or in other cities as well. In September 2022, the shelling of energy infrastructure began, and no one knew about blackouts or how to act in such cases. "There was a sense of great anxiety, of Armageddon, because after a strong flash, everything went off immediately," says the photographer.

Rescuers eliminate a fire at the Kharkivska TPP. September 11, 2022. Photo by Konstantin Liberov

Without electricity

The authorities and Konstantin Liberov were the first to arrive at the scene of the shelling. Kostiantyn was able to get through to the head of the Kharkiv City Emergency Service and find out the address. "When we arrived, we saw the enormous scale of the destruction. The flames were very large, and the fire itself was very strong," says Vlada Liberova. She adds that the firefighters fought the fire actively and heroically, going into the flames. After the shooting, the photographers realized that they had captured a large-scale and new event in the Russian-Ukrainian war, as it was the first time such a massive shelling of critical infrastructure had taken place.

At the time, the photographers were working with the Associated Press and wanted to send the footage immediately. "The internet was down, so we were looking for a place to connect to the network and send at least some footage. I put together a post for Instagram and couldn't upload it," says Vlada Liberova. She and Konstantin went to bed feeling anxious and unable to understand the situation.

Elimination of the fire at the Kharkivskaya CHPP. September 11, 2022. Photo by Konstantin Liberov

The Internet was restored only in the middle of the day and photographers were able to read news and analytical articles about the situation in Ukraine. "We realized that this is the Russian Federation's strategy for the near future - to destroy our infrastructure. We all remember that such shelling of stations caused blackouts all over Ukraine," says photographer Vlada Liberova.


Konstantin Liberov is a Ukrainian photographer and photojournalist. He is a holder of the Order of Merit III degree (2023).

One of his photographs was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best photos of 2022.

During the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, together with his wife Vlada Liberova, he photographed the aftermath of the war in Kharkiv, Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Sviatohirsk, Mykolaiv, Bucha, Irpin, Kyiv and other cities.

Konstantin's photographs were published by The Kyiv Independent, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Insider, and The Independent.

Social networks of the photographer:


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 Foundation.


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