2017 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, 1st prize

Valery Melnikov

Rossia Segodnya

17 July, 2014

A woman sits outside her house in Luhansk, hit by shelling.

Donetsk and Luhansk are two self-proclaimed, pro-Russian ‘People’s Republics’ in the Donbass region in easternmost Ukraine. A 2001 government census showed that 74.9 percent of the population in the Donetsk region and 68.8 percent of the Luhansk region have Russian as a mother tongue. In April 2014, a month after Russian forces had entered Crimea in southern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists seized parts of Donetsk and Luhansk. The Ukrainian government launched a military operation in response, and over the course of the summer the conflict escalated into full-scale hostilities. In August 2014 (and again in February 2015) Russian forces gave active support in training and equipment to the rebels. A ceasefire was signed in September 2014, but was repeatedly violated before breaking down completely.

The photographer first went to Luhansk in the early summer of 2014, and witnessed conditions change as hostilities intensified. He believes that the most important side to any conflict is the third one: that of the ordinary people caught up in the violence. Civilians in Luhansk and Donetsk had to survive often without running water or electricity, under repeated shelling, experiencing the destruction of their homes and the deaths of friends and relatives.

About the photographer

Valery Melnikov

Valery Melnikov is a documentary photographer based in Moscow. He studied journalism in Stavropol, Russia and began his photographic career working for The North Caucasus news...

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