- Viral photos showed the devastating aftermath of a Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian apartment block.
- The photographer told Insider he initially fled, but returned to show the world Russia’s actions.
- At least 45 died, Ukraine said, in one of the biggest losses of civilian life since the war began.
Arsen Dzodzaev was walking along the Dnipro riverfront with his wife when a Russian missile smashed into a nearby apartment block on Saturday, killing at least 45 people in one of the biggest losses of civilian life since the war in Ukraine began.
Dzodzaev, who is not a full-time photographer, told Insider he initially fled the area with his wife, but decided to return to capture the scene after leaving her in a relatively safe place.
Dzodzaev said he was motivated by the need to show the world what was happening in Ukraine.
“The world should see Russian crimes, what they are doing here,” he told Insider.
In doing so, Dzodzaev captured a series of images of a woman trapped in her bathroom partway up the destroyed building. The women’s face seems to capture both shock and despair, with the entire front of the building ripped away.
Ukrainian media identified the woman as 23-year-old Anastasia Shvets. Reports said that her parents were killed in the blast, and that her boyfriend had died fighting in the war in September.
Dzodzaev later captured Shvets’ rescue by firefighters.
In an update from her hospital bed after the blast, Shvets reportedly said: “I don’t have words, I don’t have emotions, I don’t feel anything except a great emptiness inside.”
A “fire mushroom”
Dzodzaev described it as a coincidence that he was in the area. He said that he and his wife live in a different part of Dnipro, but had driven to the neighborhood for a weekend walk.
“We were walking and in the moment I turned my head and saw a big fire mushroom. I didn’t understand what happened in the beginning. And then just a moment [later] I heard the boom sound. I understood that it was a missile hit.”
Ukraine said Russia hit the building with a Russian Kh-22 missile, known as an “aircraft carrier killer.”
Ukraine does not currently have the weaponry that it needs to shoot down this type of weapon, Mykola Oleshchuk, Commander of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said, according to Newsweek.
Dzodzaev said he didn’t even notice the woman when he started taking photographs. “I didn’t think, I just took the pictures automatically,” he said.
He said he was aware that there were people stuck in the building, and civilians were trying to help the firefighters by bringing food and hot drinks, and removing rubble with their bare hands in an attempt to reach those who were trapped.
Work to find survivors continued into Tuesday, but the city’s mayor said that the chances of finding anyone still alive had dropped significantly.
Dzodzaev, who primarily works as an engineer but takes photos as a hobby – and sometimes supplies them to the media – said he didn’t feel any fear for himself.
It was only when he was home with his wife that night that he felt the exhaustion, he said. He then woke up the next morning to his photographs going viral across the internet.
“This is kind of a moment of fame,” he said. “It’s maybe not the famous that I would want, but it has happened.”
Dzodzaev said he hopes his photos can help persuade Ukraine’s allies to continue to give aid, as well as ramp up their military assistance.
“I hope these photos can make some changes in the minds of people who make big decisions: some governments, prime ministers,” he said.
Dzodzaev said he spoke with Shvet’s sister, who was looking for information on what had happened to her, after the blast.
He added that he was still following Shvet’s story, but that he didn’t want to disturb her after her traumatic ordeal.