UK newspaper The Guardian chose Ukrainian photographer Yevhen Maloletka, who works with the Associated Press agency, as their top photographer of 2022, the paper wrote on Dec. 23.
Yevhen Maloletka in March shook the world with his pictures from Mariupol, which was be-sieged by Russian troops and suffering from constant Russian attacks. For reporting from the city, he and his colleague Mstyslav Chernov, received an award from the international organization Reporters Without Borders in December.
The publication said that at the beginning of 2022 Maloletka was covering violence in Kazakhstan, and as soon as the world began to actively talk about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, he returned home. Together with videographer Chernov and producer Vasylisa Stepanenko, they went to Kharkiv Oblast, passing Donbas, and finally arriving in Mariupol just an hour before the invasion.
The Guardian shared a selection of Maloletka’s photos and published an interview with him.
“When we did a story about Ukraine’s preparation for war and how the country prepares to repel the attack of Russia in case of anything, it looked unserious,” Maloletka said.
“Both protests and preparations of little groups in Kharkiv didn’t cause any serious reaction, and people lived their regular lives – went to theatres, clubs – and all that was pretty casual and people said ‘there will be no war’ and we didn’t entirely believe it ourselves.”
The publication notes that once Maloletka and the Associated Press news agency had assessed that the invasion was inevitabe, they went to the city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine. They thought that if the war started, Mariupol would be the key, because it is a strategic seaport. And they were not mistaken, the Guardian notes.
“I remember how Serhii brought three teenagers in his car – one of them was dead right away... Iliya was dead right away, but David and Artem were badly injured,” Maloletka recalled, telling the story of one of his most striking photos.
"These teens played football at the school where a shell strike killed Ilya and injured two boys. Thank god David and Artem survived, but Iliya – no. And Serhii, cried over his dead child’s body, and then we found out when we were taking the bodies from the morgue, that Iliya was, his body was brought to this common mass grave. And Serhii tried not to remember after this and went on a long voyage because he is a sailor. His family, all the rest are in Canada."
Maloletka and the AP team spent 20 days documenting the siege of the city, until they had to leave because they were told that the Russians were hunting them for publishing a detailed account of the atrocities happening in Mariupol. They managed to get out through 15 Russian checkpoints to Zaporizhzhia, a city that was then controlled by the Ukrainians.
Yevhen Maloletka continues to cover the war on various Ukrainian fronts, from Kharkiv, Donbas and Zaporizhzhia to Mykolaiv, Kherson and Kyiv.
Mstyslav Chernov’s film 20 days in Mariupol, based on the material shot in the city at that time, will be released at the Sundance independent film festival in the U.S. in January.