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Black Butterflies

When Vladimir Putin declared the beginning of the special operation against Ukraine, few of us there believed that we were facing a large-scale war. Those of us who have been covering the conflict since 2014 had seen similar arrogance, but at most we expected more fighting on the Donbass side. However, I was not mistaken in one thing: in judging the determination and courage of the Ukrainian people or the response of its armed forces. I was also not surprised by the lack of principles of the Russian army and their attacks on the civilian population. Afghanistan, Chechnya or Syria are good examples of this. “Black Butterflies” is the name given by the soldiers to the ashes that come out of the houses set on fire during the battles. In my more than ten years as a conflict photographer, only in Syria have I seen so many, and so widespread, attacks on residential areas, hospitals and civilian targets. This strategy is designed to massacre and displace citizens and undermine their morale, and is part of a plan for ethnic cleansing openly expressed by Russian politicians and journalists.