Inside occupied Ukraine: A photographer’s first-hand account | Washington Post

by UKCHP_Admin

The call in July came on a Sunday. Pack your bags, they told me. You’re going to Russian-occupied Ukraine in two days.

As a Moscow-based photographer covering the war, I’d heard about these surreal press tours of Russianseized Ukrainian towns run by the Defense Ministry. I knew these trips came with a healthy dose of Kremlin propaganda, but I was eager to photograph parts of the region few journalists could access. It was one of the only possibilities I had to see what life was like in places virtually cut off from the world

The first tour lasted three long days. Russian security forces escorted me and other media — a few Western journalists and many pro-Russian bloggers — from site to site. They kept the visits short and closely monitored the conversations we had with locals.

We slept in Donetsk, a city on the front line that has been controlled by Russia and Russian-backed separatists since 2014. Explosions punctuated the night. Donetsk is one of the only places in the occupied east with some infrastructure left.

I had been there two weeks before the war started. It was quite empty then, but in July it felt like a ghost town. All the stores were closed. There were few cars on the street. A nearby factory had been shelled, and the city smelled like ammonia.

“Russia is here forever,” one billboard said.

[Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2022/ukraine-occupied-life-photos/]

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