US photographer defends taking image of dead Ukrainian family that shocked the world: ‘This is a war crime’

Photograph shows four dead family members who had just reached Kyiv from Irpin city

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 16 March 2022 08:23 GMT
'This is a war crime': US photographer defends taking image of dead Ukrainian family

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An American photographer has described how she came to take a shocking picture of a Ukrainian family killed by Russian troops, saying the world “must see” such images of “war crimes”.

Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario’s photo shows four family members, including two children, lying dead as they just reached capital Kyiv from the neighbouring Irpin city.

According to reports, the family was deliberately targeted by the Russian military as they attempted to cross a bridge to enter the capital on Sunday. The image was printed by the New York Times on its front page.

The woman and the two children were immediately killed in the mortar shelling, while Ukrainian soldiers tried to save one of the severely injured men, who died later, the Times reported.

Residents of Irpin have been trying to flee their city and enter Kyiv using a battered bridge, which had been blown up by Ukrainian forces to slow the Russian advance.

The disturbing photo of the family, published at the top of the newspaper’s front page, has attracted global attention and raised concerns over the safety of civilians in the war-torn country.

Pulitzer-winning photographer Lynsey Addario defends a photo she took during an interview with CBS News
Pulitzer-winning photographer Lynsey Addario defends a photo she took during an interview with CBS News (CBS News)

“I’ve witnessed many horrors in the past twenty years of covering war, but the intentional targeting of children and women is pure evil,” Addario posted on Instagram.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that his troops are targeting civilians in Ukraine.

“I went forward and found a place sort of behind a wall and started photographing. Within minutes, a series of mortars fell increasingly closer and closer to our position until one landed about 30 feet from where I was standing and it killed a mother and her two children,” Addario told CBS News.

“But of course, it was very emotional. First of all, I had just been sprayed with gravel from a mortar round that could have killed us very easily,” she added.

“So I was shaken up, and when we were told that we could run across the street by our security adviser, I ran and I saw this family splayed out and I saw these little moon boots and puffy coat.”

Addario explained that even though it felt disrespectful, she had to take the photograph. “This is a war crime,” she said.

“I think it’s really important that people around the world see these images,” the photojournalist added.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said he has opened an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine after a referral from 39 countries.

The UK and its allies pressed for a rapid investigation to be launched into Mr Putin’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities.

British prime minister Boris Johnson had accused Russia of committing war crimes and warned Mr Putin that he “cannot commit these horrific acts with impunity”.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here.

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