TIME portfolio

See Scenes of Daily Life in a Ukrainian City Marked by War

In Mariupol, the stakes have never been higher

French photographer Jerome Sessini has spent the last 18 months covering the unrest in Ukraine. He watched the rise of the antigovernment protests in late 2013, paralyzing Kiev, after the country pivoted toward Russia under the impulsion of its then-President Viktor Yanukovych. He was at Independence Square when dozens of people were shot by snipers, and he witnessed the birth of the war in the east as pro-Russian forces fanned through the region. And last July, he was also on the scene when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed by a missile, killing nearly 300 innocents.

Sessini has returned to the east several times since then, each time documenting the changing of a society in the country’s industrial heartland and its people as the conflict rages.

At least 6,400 people have been killed in Ukraine, the United Nations recently noted, and more than 1.3 million have been displaced. Since the rebels took Debaltseve in February, fears have steadily risen that Mariupol, a key economic and transport hub, would be next. If so, it would establish a land bridge between Russia and Crimea, the province it annexed in early 2014.

In late May, Sessini arrived to Mariupol, a major port city under government control along the Sea of Azov. Earlier, he had photographed on the pro-Russian side. This time, for two weeks, he opted to remain on the predominantly Russian-speaking government-controlled side. He went in with two civilian volunteers—who were bringing food, clothing and electronics to build a drone—to see how the other side is living.

This near-certain upcoming battle has had a big impact on Mariupol, which has a population of about 460,000. “The city looks like it’s at a standstill,” Sessini tells TIME. He found a lot of shops were closed, restaurants and bars were empty, with streets largely deserted by 8PM. “You can feel the tension,” he says. “You feel this kind of sadness.”

During his visit, Sessini aimed to show daily life. He spent a fair amount of time on the tramway, turning his lens toward the souls on board and then out the windows at a city hanging in the balance as fighting rages nearby. He met a lot of young volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side. Some of them, he was told, had been either police officers or demonstrators during the Maidan protests but were now working toward a common goal against the pro-Russian forces that fanned out across the east. Sessini worked with a translator, as many of the people he encountered weren’t naturally open with him, a foreigner. That lack of trust, he understands, is a natural part of conflict.

His photos are a powerful and tragic testament to the sea change in Ukraine. “I’ve seen the split go deeper and deeper,” Sessini says. He plans to return later in the summer—what he expects then, he’s not quite sure. He admits there is a realization among locals, as fighting has neared over the past few months, that their home city is a strategic target. They understand an assault is likely to come sooner or later. For some of them, he found, all they can do is wait.

Jerome Sessini is a French photojournalist represented by Magnum Photos.

Kira Pollack, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s Director of Photography. Follow her on Twitter @kirapollack.

Andrew Katz is a former TIME homepage editor and reporter covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

TIME Nepal

Richard Engel Spotlights Heroes and Victims of Everest Avalanche

NBC News Richard Engel at Everest Base Camp.

NBC will air a special edition of Dateline on Sunday, June 28, at 7 p.m. ET

It’s been two months since a massive earthquake in Nepal left more than 8,500 people dead, leveled thousands of buildings and homes and triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. On Sunday, NBC will air “Avalanche,” a special episode of Dateline led by the network’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, featuring eyewitness accounts from one expedition climbing Mount Everest during the quake on April 25. Engel, who reached Nepal with a crew shortly after the earthquake struck, talks with TIME about what he found in the country and what he has taken away.

TIME: At what point did you learn an avalanche had apparently hit Everest Base Camp?

Engel: It was social media, the first pictures taken by witnesses of the avalanche at Base Camp. But it wasn’t a complete picture. We just knew something bad had happened there, but we didn’t know: Were hundreds dead? Were thousands missing? Were people stranded at altitude? Were they going to be freezing to death? Starving? You get stranded at Everest or you get trapped under an avalanche on the highest peak in the world, it’s a strong possibility that there’s no help coming.

I think we were the first television crew up to Base Camp. So after we saw the pictures, we were up there I guess within 48 hours. But we got lucky, too. We got to the lower camp. There happened to be a time when there was good weather. We happened to have a chopper pilot who was willing to go. So we had a pretty fortuitous sequence of events to get us there quickly.

We follow, mostly, the experiences of one expedition, called the Madison Expedition Group, and it’s quite a well known outfitter that takes climbers up to Everest. And they had a very, very tough run. They lost a team member, they had a documentarian with them who was filming. They had a very strong, compelling story. We got to the story early. It’s on Everest, and it’s a story about that team and what happened to Base Camp, but it’s also representative of what this mountain means to Nepal, what this earthquake meant for the people of Nepal. We talk about all the 8,000, maybe 9,000, maybe 10,000 people—it’s still unclear how many people died—how this was a terrible turn of events for an expedition and a terrible turn of events for a country.

TIME: What happened when you arrived to Base Camp?

Engel: Well, I almost collapsed. Not because of what I saw, but because of what I felt. I wasn’t acclimated to the altitude, so I went from Kathmandu, which is at low altitude, to 17,598 feet in an afternoon, and that’s not an ideal way of doing it. The pilot basically told me, if you stay at this Base Camp for longer than an hour or two hours or three hours, you’re going to need medical attention. So I got out of the chopper, and I wasn’t alone—there were three of us: the pilot, myself and a cameraman—and the cameraman and I were dizzy. It was difficult to speak. It felt like my tongue was very thick in my mouth. So we were lucky. We were there for only a brief amount of time and got off and there was no medical problem, but I was struck by the altitude, I would say. That was the most immediate sensation.

TIME: You met a lot of sherpas and climbers and guides. Did you get a sense of how they deal with something like this when it happens?

Engel: For the sherpa people, Everest and that entire section of the Himalayas is sacred. This is a holy place. It is a place where you only approach after receiving the blessings of holy men. They construct altars before they go onto the mountain. So for the sherpa people, the dangers of Everest is something that they always are conscious of, something that they always ask the Gods to grant them safe passage. They clearly bore the brunt of this earthquake. A lot of these stone villages were devastated and they are still recovering from this. But it is also a fact that the sherpas make their livelihood from the Everest climbers and from the business that comes with it. So they respect the mountain, they fear the mountain, but they also live and work on the mountain.

It was the sherpas who decided this year that no more climbers would go up Everest. We saw some climbers who, even after the avalanche, they wanted to keep going. They wanted to push. They’d spent a lot of money, they’d been training, they’d had their sights set on the summit. But it was the sherpas who said this year, “Climbing season is done. We’re not doing this anymore.” So they still very much own the mountain.

Everest has a special place in all of our imaginations. For centuries, Everest was a little bit like the moon. It was the place where everyone wanted to go. Empires wanted to be able to say that they were the first to put a climber on top of Everest. So it has long been part of our collective history. And part of our collective imagination. So when a tragedy happens up on that mountain, I think it has a global resonance. Everybody’s heard of Everest. Everybody knows what Everest is and what it means, and the significance.

TIME: There’s a Swiss helicopter pilot who is central in this Everest story. You credit him with saving dozens of people stranded on the mountain.

Engel: On the morning of the earthquake, there was solid cloud cover and the pilots couldn’t get up there. A few pilots that were nearby couldn’t get up to Base Camp. So, like we knew down below in Kathmandu that something bad had happened, the rescue pilots knew that something bad had happened. They just didn’t know what, and they didn’t know how severe. So this one pilot, a Swiss pilot named Reto Rüesch, who was locked under this cloud cover getting increasingly frustrated, saw a little hole, decided to punch through that hole, get above the clouds and go to Base Camp. He was the only pilot in the sky for many hours, and single-handedly rescued about 70 people. Afterward, we went and saw him in Switzerland.

TIME: And how is he reflecting on what he did that day?

Engel: The most humble guy you’ll ever meet. He told no one back home in Switzerland what he did. He was embarrassed that we even wanted to come and interview him. He said “Sure, I guess, if you want, you can come and talk to me.”

TIME: What will you take away from your time in Nepal?

Engel: I was just amazed at the people. They were so calm and resilient. I didn’t see any looting. I didn’t see any violence. There was no hostility toward us. They were resourceful, and just really astonishingly lovely. I was really impressed … because everyone moved outside. Think about like—an earthquake happens in Manhattan and all the social services are destroyed, all the phones are gone, the Internet’s gone, the banking’s gone, the buildings are damaged, and everyone just on their own moves into Central Park and lives there, without any orders form above. And there’s no fighting, no arguments, they’re just living under tarps in Central Park. It was beautiful, in a way. Tragic, but the way they came together was beautiful.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Read next: Cover Story: ‘This Is the Earthquake We’ve Been Waiting For’

TIME Interview

Exclusive: Astronaut Terry Virts on the Power of Space Photography

The American astronaut shot a record-breaking 319,275 photos during his 199-day mission

Terry Virts knows he’s lucky. The American astronaut recently returned from nearly seven months on the International Space Station, his second trip to space, which ended up lasting longer than expected.

Virts, along with Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, was forced to stay board the Space Station for an additional month after an arriving Russian cargo vessel malfunctioned in April and later burned up in the atmosphere.

During their 199 days in space, they conducted hundreds of scientific experiments and went on three spacewalks. Back on the ground after his return on June 11, Virts discussed, in an exclusive interview with TIME, his extended stay in space and where he finds the time to photograph the Earth amid a packed schedule.

“I was ready to stay up there because there were still pictures I wanted to take, there were still videos I wanted to do,” he says. “If you’re an astronaut flying in space, you gotta look at that as your last flight. And so you gotta enjoy it. And I’ve got the rest of my life to be on Earth.”

Space Station Cupola Astronaut Terry Virts
NASA; GIF by Mia Tramz for TIMEAstronaut Terry Virts photographing Earth aboard the International Space Station

Virts, 47, is a Maryland native with a wife and two children. He was selected as a NASA pilot in 2000 and began training shortly afterward. This trip to space ended up some 15 times longer than his first, a 13-day mission on space shuttle Endeavour in 2010, and gave him more opportunities to show the rest of us what he sees.

Throughout his stay aboard the Space Station—he traveled about 84 million miles since last November—Virts was shooting stills and videos that were later posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine with support from his colleagues on the ground. He captured lightning storms over the Himalayas, Mexico and the American heartland; overhead shots of the ice fields of Patagonia and painterly farms of central Brazil—all images that showed the natural beauty of the planet. On his last day, he finally managed to get a shot of the pyramids in Giza, Egypt.

It all helps him connect with Earth, he says, describing a need to document what he sees and share it with others. “It’s just part of my personality and part of what I want to do. And it’s a challenge.”

That’s an understatement.

Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-15M Landing
Bill Ingalls—NASAThe Soyuz spacecraft returned from and came to rest in the desert near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on June 11, 2015. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti were still aboard the spacecraft in this photo.

The Space Station orbits the Earth 16 times each day, at 17,500 mph. “Things go by so fast, or you look on—we have these computer maps where it shows where we are over the Earth—and you’re like, ‘Man, I just missed that target,’” he says.

Other things can get in the way, too. The desired target could be too far in the distance, or maybe there’s weather above it, or perhaps the pass is in the middle of sleep or work. Beyond the technical aspect, there’s an artistic one, too: “Does it capture the feeling, and the emotion, in the sense of what you’re seeing? That’s a bigger challenge—the one that I like and the one that you just can’t do,” he tells TIME.

One thing that was visible from space, Virts notes, is wealth around the world, evident by city lights at night. “At nighttime obviously, cities make you feel connected there. I think more than connected, it makes you learn about Earth,” he says. “You can really tell what economies are doing well.”

Central Europe, from England to about Poland, for example, is “just completely bright,” he says. In the sparsely populated Russian lands east of Moscow, “there’s not a lot of lights.” Cairo is “super bright” and there are “really bright European-looking cities” in South Africa, but otherwise, he says, “the whole continent in between is mostly dark, with just little orange dots here and there.”

Still, the most stark contrast—“it’s literally night and day,” he says—is North and South Korea. “There’s all this bright economic activity,” around Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul, “and then there is a black hole with one very small white dot, and that’s Pyongyang.”

His time in space has afforded him the chance to learn to associate colors with different places on Earth. “I have a new sense of the different continents and countries on Earth than I did before,” he says. “You learn, you feel this connection with different places on Earth by what you see in space.”

When he thinks of Australia, for example, he thinks of red. “The outback is really red, it’s amazingly red,” Virts says. India and the jungles of central Africa are “hazy.” Beijing and Shanghai, the Chinese megacities, are “just brown,” due to pollution. Russia during the winter is “thousands and thousands of miles of white,” and the Bahamas are green and turquoise. “I want to go there,” he says, noting that his travel bucket list got much bigger.

Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-15M Landing
Bill Ingalls—NASAShortly after his return from space, Virts is carried into a medical tent near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on June 11, 2015.

Sunrises, “were always one of my favorite things,” he adds. “I saw colors that I had never seen before.” He describes the distinct bands that he could see looking down on the atmosphere, ones that our eyes can’t see from the ground. “Trying to capture those with a camera is really tough.” Virts experimented with the burst mode and “a lot of different shutter speeds and apertures to try and get the colors.” Still, he says, “I never found a picture that captured everything that the eye saw.”

As the interview wrapped up, Virts recalls a story by a friend. A fellow astronaut, Mike Fincke was asked before a space launch about his favorite planet. “Is it Mars? Is it Jupiter?” Fincke was asked. “And when he came back from his Space Station mission, he said, ‘My favorite planet is Earth.’”

“There’s definitely no place like this in the universe,” Virts says, “that’s for sure.”

Interview by Shaul Schwarz and Jonathan Woods. See the trailer of A Year in Space, a multi-part documentary series produced by TIME’s Red Border Films and directed by Shaul Schwarz and Marco Grob.

TIME Advocacy

Exclusive: Watch the Trailer for the New Documentary He Named Me Malala

A film by Davis Guggenheim

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage activist in Pakistan who was nearly killed by the Taliban in 2012 while on her way home from school, appeared on The Daily Show on Thursday evening to show a clip from the upcoming documentary about her family.

The 17-year-old, who last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, stars in He Named Me Malala, a film by Davis Guggenheim (known for 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth and 2010’s Waiting for Superman) that depicts how Malala, her father and other family members continue to champion education as a right for youths around the world.

The trailer for the film, provided first to TIME, is now exclusively viewable on the Malala Fund’s Facebook page.

TIME space

Comet Lander Philae Wakes Up After Months of Hibernation

The comet lander "spoke" for 85 seconds via its orbiter, "Rosetta"

The comet lander that went into hibernation last last year has made contact with its team back on Earth, European space officials said on Sunday.

In a brief and excited statement, the European Space Agency said the unmanned Philae, which landed on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November to become the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet, sent a number of signals via its orbiter (“Rosetta”) to an operations center in Darmstadt, Germany. They were received on June 13 at 10:28 p.m., local time.

Dr. Stephan Ulamec, Philae Project Manager at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), said “Philae is doing very well.” The comet lander “spoke” for 85 seconds, the statement continued, and appeared to have been awake prior to sending the signals, as it transmitted “historical data” as well.

After November’s historic landing, officials said Philae had settled in a spot where it didn’t receive as much sunlight as necessary, causing its battery life to drain.

Read next: See Pictures of Philae Detaching From Rosetta

TIME Italy

Somber Images of the Migrant Crisis in the Mediterranean Sea

Warmer weather means more crossings on the Mediterranean

Thousands of migrants and refugees were rescued from smugglers’ vessels in the Mediterranean over the weekend, pushing the total number of arrivals in Europe this year to more than 101,000 as political leaders struggle with dividing the burden.

An estimated 101,900 migrants have made it to Europe since Jan. 1, the International Organization for Migration said Monday, including some 7,000 people who were rescued between June 6-8 in a maritime operation involving Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Italy and Greece have taken in the most, at more than 52,000 and more than 46,000, respectively.

The latest rescues illustrate the impact of warmer weather on the crossings, which received heavy attention earlier this year after the death toll from a number of shipwrecks between Italy and Libya—now a funnel into Europe for those fleeing conflict, poverty and persecution—quickly reached more than 1,800, well above the 425 recorded for the whole of 2014.

Broader search-and-rescue operations have been credited with the rising number of rescues, versus more deaths, as European Union member nations decide how is best to relieve the pressure of the influx.

Italian photographer Giulio Piscitelli has been documenting the crisis in the Mediterranean.

Read next: The Tiny Greek Island at the Center of the Refugee Crisis

TIME portfolio

After Chávez, Searching for Venezuela’s Identity

"The cycle of violence is hard to break in the slums"

More than two years after the death of Hugo Chávez—the fiercely loved and despised Venezuelan President, the populist with a booming voice—the country he left behind remains in disarray.

Demonstrations against his successor, Nicolás Maduro, have been fueled by anger and frustration over high inflation, violent crime and shortages of basic goods. That has led the Venezuelan people to question what El Comandante left for them.

Alejandro Cegarra, a 25-year-old photographer who grew up in a relatively privileged middle-class family, in what he called “a good area” of Caracas, the capital city of 2.9 million, is among them. In the wake of Chávez’s death, he began looking at the political, social and economic factors that pushed his country to its current point.

He photographed the empty shelves at markets that have come to represent the economic crisis. “You have a picture from a month ago and then one from a year ago,” Cegarra says, “but it still looks like the same style.” He came across a family being evicted by troops so a highway could be built—though months later there had been no progress—and documented the murals of Chávez around Caracas. “It’s everywhere,” he says of the late leader’s face, comparing the sightings to that of Chávez mentor Fidel Castro. “It’s worse than Cuba.”

Cegarra also turned his lens to insecurity. On Feb. 12, 2014, he found himself covering a largely peaceful demonstration against Maduro’s administration that winded down into a group of protesters who clashed with security forces, during which Bassil Da Costa, a 24-year-old university student, was fatally shot in the head.

“I remember the face of one of the guys who was carrying him,” he says. “It was panic, fear, he was crying.” Cegarra fell at some point during the mayhem, but the students around Da Costa wanted him to capture the scene, to make a record of it. One of them lifted Cegarra up and urged him to get a shot. Da Costa’s death, and that of a Maduro supporter, became a flashpoint in the unrest.

Cegarra couldn’t look at the image for a while, admitting it’s “not a picture I would show and feel especially proud,” despite it being “one of the few moments when I actually saw the power of a picture.”

The photographer also visited El Rodeo prison complex, where deadly violence broke out four years ago. “Normally I’m the target of these guys, so I went there and talked with them face to face,” he says, “trying to understand the bad choices or circumstances of why they are there.” He recalls it was a positive experience, one that enabled him to leave his prejudice at the door, to grow up a bit and understand the city around him. “The cycle of violence is hard to break in the slums, and there are too many factors.”

He went to the jail three times, and later photographed at a funeral for a gang member. “That guy was my age and I was there alive taking pictures, and he was there [in a coffin],” he says. “I have to see the other part of my country—see it, live it and say, well, I grew up in a bubble and my country is this.”

All of that gets back to why Cegarra began this project in the first place. “Venezuela is trapped between its past and future,” Cegarra says, likening the reality of the present-day to an adolescent finding its way between youth to adulthood. “It was something that … was touching me, personally,” he adds, recalling the influence of Chávez. “What his legacy was and what he left for me.”

Alejandro Cegarra is a photographer based in Caracas and featured with Getty Images Reportage. Follow him on Instagram @alecegarra. This series will be exhibited during the Visa pour l’Image festival in Perpignan, France, later this year.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME Greece

The Tiny Greek Island at the Center of the Refugee Crisis

More than 37,000 people have arrived in Greece this year, up from 34,000 throughout 2014

Greece has long been a major entry point to Europe for migrants and refugees in search of something better. Thousands of them have in recent months landed on the island of Kos, a paradisiacal vacation spot less than three miles from Turkey’s southwestern coast.

In late May, the International Organization for Migration said more than 37,000 people have arrived in Greece this year, up from 34,000 throughout 2014. Fleeing conflict or conscription, disaster or economic hardship, many face smugglers or scams before boarding inflatable boats across uneasy waters in bids for asylum or opportunity.

The route across the Aegean Sea from Turkey has proven far less deadly than the treacherous one from Libya to Italy or Malta, where some 1,800 people have died this year. In an effort to ease the burden on the European Union’s southernmost states, including debt-stricken Greece, since most are allowed to remain in the country where they enter, the bloc is working on a way to divide the responsibility. But one thing is certain as summer deepens: warmer weather will bring more crossings.

Read next: Migrants Find a Safer Route Into Europe via the Balkans

TIME Television

Celebrities Say #ThanksDave Before David Letterman’s Last Show

Hollywood bids farewell to the king of late-night TV

Ahead of David Letterman’s final Late Show on Wednesday, a slew of celebrities took to Twitter to congratulate the host on a legendary ride. Below is a selection of the tributes by past performers and guests, fellow comedians and others who were inspired during his 33 years.

Foo Fighters:

Betty White:

Eric Stangel, longtime writer and producer for Letterman:

Conan O’Brien:

Ellen DeGeneres:

Lady Antebellum:

Vince McMahon:

Maroon 5:

Jim Gaffigan:

Alexi Lalas, retired U.S. soccer player:

Backstreet Boys:


Tim McGraw:

Dan Smith of Bastille:

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios:

Keith Olbermann:

No Doubt:

Read next: Everything You Need to Know About David Letterman’s Final Show

TIME Transportation

8th Body Found as Focus of Amtrak Derailment Shifts to Engineer

Philadelphia mayor called engineer "reckless and irresponsible"

Officials have accounted for all the passengers and crew aboard the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia this week, after finding an eighth body amid the wreckage on Thursday morning.

The announcement came as the investigation into the crash’s cause has zeroed in on the train’s engineer, who sustained a concussion in the accident that left at least eight people dead and 200 people injured. The engineer, Brandon Bostian, has “absolutely no recollection of the incident,” his lawyer said Robert Goggin said on Good Morning America Thursday.

Investigators have determined the train was traveling at more than 100 mph when it crashed going through a curve in the tracks, where the speed limit was 50 mph.

Bostian, a 32-year-old Queens resident, was treated and released from Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center on Wednesday, NBC News reports. Records from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen indicate he has worked at Amtrak since April 2009.

Bostian voluntarily gave a blood sample to authorities, as well as his cell phone, Goggin told ABC News.

In a news conference Wednesday, Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the train’s engineer had applied the brakes at about the time it was entering a left-hand curve and that preliminary data showed it was traveling at 106 mph, more than twice the speed limit for that section of track. “You’re supposed to enter the curve at 50 miles per hour,” he told reporters near the scene.

The Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, which was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members to New York City, derailed near the site of a 1943 accident in that left dozens dead. Sumwalt, who had earlier said his team had not yet met with the engineer, said data recorders from the train would be further analyzed in Washington, D.C., where the train originated Tuesday, and that he expected investigators to remain at the site for about a week.

On Wednesday evening, with excessive speed rising as an apparent main factor in the derailment, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter lashed out against the engineer.

“Clearly he was reckless and irresponsible in his actions” he told CNN. “I don’t know what was going on with him. I don’t know what was going on in the cab, but there’s really no excuse that could be offered, literally, unless he had a heart attack.”

Sumwalt took a more cautious approach in commenting on the engineer, saying “we want to get to the facts before we start making judgments.”

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