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«We have come, we are here». Kharkiv region liberated from Russian troops in the photos of Mstyslav Chernov

A settlement near Kharkiv liberated by the Ukrainian army. May 8, 2022. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

From late April to mid-May 2022, the final stage of the defense of the city of Kharkiv lasted. The main task was to push the Russian military back from the immediate vicinity of Kharkiv. Ukrainian troops were advancing to the north and northeast of the city. In May 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine advanced north of Kharkiv and reached the border with Russia. This became the key to further liberation of the Kharkiv region. The Slobozhansk counteroffensive began in September 2022.

The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photos by Mstyslav Chernov, who documented the Kharkiv counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in May 2022.

On the border

On May 5, 2022, the Ukrainian Defense Forces launched a counteroffensive on the Kharkiv and Izyum directions. The Russian military attempted to advance in the area of Staryi Saltov, but to no avail. On May 7, the Ukrainian Armed Forces took control of Tsyrkuny in the Kharkiv region. To slow down the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Russian military blew up three bridges.

Photo by Mstislav Chernov

On May 10, 2022, the Ukrainian military regained control of four settlements: Cherkaski Tyshky, Ruski Tyshky, Rubizhne, and Bayrak. Leaflets with warnings to the Russian military appeared in the temporarily occupied village of Velykyi Burluk. Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said that buses and trolleybuses were going to resume operation in the city. On May 12, the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, Oleh Syniehubov, said that people who had left Kharkiv were returning to the city. The Ukrainian armed forces are advancing in the Izyum direction.

Photo by Mstislav Chernov

On May 15, the Ukrainian Defense Forces successfully counterattacked north of Kharkiv and reached the border with Russia. After the liberation of a number of settlements, the announcement of reaching the state border became a significant milestone in the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine posted on its official website a video message from the soldiers of the 227th Battalion of the 127th Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who had reached the state border, to the President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Ukrainian military set up a border pillar and emotionally reported: "We have reached, Mr. President, we are here! Here is a border guard with us... Mr. President, we have reached the border!"

Photo by Mstislav Chernov

The de-occupation of part of the Kharkiv region in late April and mid-May 2022 allowed analysts at The Institute for the Study of War to conclude that the Russian army had actually lost the battle for Kharkiv. The final liberation of almost the entire territory of the Kharkiv region took place four months later, in September 2022. However, it was the May offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that created the conditions for a powerful Slobozhansk counteroffensive.

Photo by Mstislav Chernov

Photographer Mstyslav Chernov documented the developments of the Kharkiv counteroffensive in May 2022. He filmed the aftermath of the Russian occupation in the newly liberated villages, the Ukrainian military launching a counteroffensive, and life in Kharkiv. In the newly liberated village of Vilkhivka, Mstyslav documented the work of ambulance doctors who took away the bodies of dead Russian soldiers. Mstyslav Chernov filmed the personal belongings of one of the dead Russian soldiers, which were used by the Ukrainian military to identify him. A passport with a red star and a bank card with a symbolic inscription "peace".

Photo by Mstislav Chernov


Mstislav Chernov is a Ukrainian photographer, Associated Press journalist, filmmaker, war correspondent, President of the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers, honorary member of PEN Ukraine and writer. He has covered the Revolution of Dignity, the war in eastern Ukraine, the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, the Syrian Civil War, the battles of Mosul in Iraq, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, including the blockade of Mariupol (for this work he received the Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award, the Giorgi Gongadze Prize, the Knight International Journalism Awards, the Biagio Agnes Award, and the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award, Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, Free Media Awards, and in 2022 was included in the ratings "People of NV 2022 in the Year of War" and "14 Songs, Photos and Art Objects that Became Symbols of Ukrainian Resistance" by Forbes Ukraine, while video footage from Mariupol became the basis for the film 20 Days in Mariupol, which in 2024 was awarded an Oscar for the first time in the history of Ukrainian cinema.

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 The Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.

We worked on the material:

Researcher of the topic, author of the text: Katya Moskalyuk

Author of the photo: Mstyslav Chernov

Literary editor: Yulia Futey

Website manager: Vladislav Kukhar


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