KHARKIV, Ukraine (AFP) – The bodies of Russian soldiers, some horribly mutilated. Relatives are crying over the dead, some killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Invariably, thousands of Ukrainians flee horrific devastation as their cities and villages are bombed.
These are photos taken by Associated Press photographer Felipe Dana while working in Ukraine for just over 10 weeks starting in early March, from Lviv in the west, to the capital Kyiv, and farther east to Kharkiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhia.
He says he often arrives in a neighborhood with emergency workers, minutes after a Russian attack.
Sometimes Dana finds a husband next to her crying body. Other times, the corpses were on an almost empty street, fatally struck by shrapnel.
“I’ve seen a lot of things that I wish had never happened, and horror scenes that I wish would never happen again,” he says.
He says it was particularly difficult to see the all-too-common scenes of refugees fleeing their homes in search of a place safe from bombing.
“Although we expect it to happen when there’s a war, it’s still hard to see, and it still affects you a lot,” adds Dana.
In some places, he walked into cellars that are used as shelters and found whole families, especially old women, living without electricity or water, their homes being bombed above them.
Recently, when the Ukrainians regained control of some villages near the second largest city of Kharkiv, he said that many of these sites resembled an open-air morgue. He saw the corpses of men, believed to be Russian soldiers, arranged in the letter “Z”, which Moscow had used as a symbol of the invasion, as well as a charred corpse propped against an anti-tank barrier.
There was no immediate explanation for either, which could be considered war crimes, for the lack of respect for the dignity of the dead.
Dana says he has visited Ukraine several times in recent years, but what he saw in Ukraine was hard to imagine and even harder to forget.
“Lifelong food lover. Avid beeraholic. Zombie fanatic. Passionate travel practitioner.”