A digital camera retrieved by fighters in eastern Ukraine holds images of a family in peacetime, and invading Russian soldiers that apparently looted the device during war.
The photo below looks like a scene from a boys' holiday, but the wooden stock of a PK machine gun (visible on right) and the identifying white armbands favored by pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine make clear this is in fact an image of war.
The snapshot is part of a remarkable discovery made by fighters of Ukraine’s 24th Mechanized Brigade who retrieved a camera from a Russian armored vehicle after a battle in Ukraine’s Luhansk region in mid-May.
The Sony device held nearly 1,000 photos of one Ukrainian family’s life before Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, followed by 11 photos and three brief videos made by Russian soldiers.
Nazar Ilnytsky, a press officer with the Ukrainian military, told RFE/RL it is believed the camera was stolen by Russian fighters attempting to advance on Kyiv, possibly from a home in the northern suburb of Hostomel. The invading soldiers were then redeployed to eastern Ukraine, taking the camera with them.
A Ukrainian serviceman from the unit that found the camera explained the circumstances to RFE/RL in the bleak language of a military report: “Russians took the camera with them in a BMD [amphibious fighting vehicle] and after the successful destruction of the vehicle’s crew this camera was found inside.”
Ilnytsky says the soldiers in the photos found on the camera's memory card are from the 31st Airborne Brigade, based in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk. The fate of the Russian servicemen in the photos is unclear. For privacy reasons, only one photo of the Ukrainian couple believed to be the owners of the camera has been released.
Soldiers who found the digital camera hope the photo of the couple will lead to them being reunited with the device, which Ilnytsky says holds almost 1,000 photos from travel, vacation, and their son’s graduation.
A May 30 Facebook post made by the 24th Mechanized Brigade about the find says, “We sincerely hope that everything is fine with the owners of the camera, whose shots the Russians have not even started to delete from the memory card," adding, "Soon we will be able to return their camera, which has come such a long way.”