Ukraine for Yahoo News

March 28, 2022

Kyiv, Ukraine | March 2022

Photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli is no stranger to war zones. Since 2009, he’s documented some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts and humanitarian crises, from the Arab Spring in Libya to the Syrian civil war, and even the fighting in eastern Ukraine that followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

But for Bucciarelli, who has been on the ground in Ukraine since Russian forces began invading the country last month, there are a few notable differences between the current conflict and those he’s covered in the past. The first is simply the speed with which Russia’s invasion has completely upended the lives of average Ukrainians.

“In [a] few days, everything changed,” Bucciarelli told Yahoo News during a Zoom interview from Kyiv earlier this week. “This is shocking.”

Bucciarelli, who is from Italy, described how the Ukrainian capital has quickly transformed from a normal city with a bustling nightlife and tourists to a conflict zone full of barricades and military checkpoints.

For many people living in Ukraine, he said, “the most poignant, painful side of the war” is getting used to the idea that “normal life will not come back again.”

But for Bucciarelli, who has been on the ground in Ukraine since Russian forces began invading the country last month, there are a few notable differences between the current conflict and those he’s covered in the past. The first is simply the speed with which Russia’s invasion has completely upended the lives of average Ukrainians.

“In [a] few days, everything changed,” Bucciarelli told Yahoo News during a Zoom interview from Kyiv earlier this week. “This is shocking.”

Bucciarelli, who is from Italy, described how the Ukrainian capital has quickly transformed from a normal city with a bustling nightlife and tourists to a conflict zone full of barricades and military checkpoints.

For many people living in Ukraine, he said, “the most poignant, painful side of the war” is getting used to the idea that “normal life will not come back again.”

Moments before Bucciarelli spoke to Yahoo News on Monday evening, Kyiv’s mayor had announced a citywide curfew, ordering businesses to close, and anyone without special permits to stay home or in shelters until Wednesday morning. Monday’s 36-hour curfew, the second one imposed across Kyiv this month, came after a Russian attack on a shopping center in the city’s Podilskyi district that reportedly killed at le

ast eight people.

The shelling that destroyed the mall in Podilskyi was just the latest example of the kinds of attacks on civilians that have already come to define Russia’s war in Ukraine. According to the U.N., as of Wednesday, 2,571 civilian casualties had been recorded in Ukraine since the invasion began on Feb. 24, with 977 killed and 1,594 injured — though the U.N. warns that the actual figures are likely much higher.

Such attacks have already driven more than 3.5 million people to flee Ukraine since the start of the war, in what the U.N. refugee agency commissioner has described as “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”

This week, the U.S. government formally accused Russian forces of committing war crimes through both indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian sites in Ukraine. Officials in Moscow, however, have repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas, making the work of photojournalists like Bucciarelli all the more important.

“It’s not the first time that images have been used for this kind of purpose, to try to show what happened,” said Bucciarelli. He said one of the main reasons for documenting the horrors of war is to “get evidence to not forget” and to prevent them from happening again.

Earlier this month, Bucciarelli photographed families attempting to evacuate the Kyiv suburb of Irpin amid Russian mortar strikes. Among the more haunting images he captured during that time in Irpin was one that shows a suitcase sitting upright alongside the bodies of civilians, including two children, who were killed by the Russian artillery strikes while trying to flee to safety.

Bucciarelli said he sees the surviving suitcase as a representation of the victims’ “dreams of a new life.”

He also noted another, more personal difference between his experience in Ukraine and the previous conflicts he’s covered: Five months ago, he became a father. He said the birth of his daughter has only made him more committed to documenting what’s happening to people in Ukraine.

“I feel more responsibilities also to show the realities” of the war, he said.