TIME russia

Putin’s Confessions on Crimea Expose Kremlin Media

Round table discussion marks 1st anniversary of reunification of Crimea with Russia
Vyacheslav Prokofyev—Itar-Tass/Corbis Dmitri Kiselyov, who runs the Kremlin’s media conglomerate, Rossiya Segodnya, attends a round table discussion dedicated to the first anniversary of the reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation at Moscow's President Hotel, March 19, 2015.

Even as the Russian President admits deploying troops in Crimea, his chief propagandists, speaking to TIME, continue to deny it

It was an awkward test for many Russian journalists. Last spring, their President tried to mislead them—and the rest of the world—by denying that he had sent troops to conquer Crimea. Even as they witnessed Russian forces sweeping that Ukrainian peninsula, reporters on the Kremlin’s payroll were obliged to go along with Vladimir Putin’s claims.

But a year later, the President came clean. In a documentary aired last weekend, he admitted ordering his troops to seize Crimea weeks before it was annexed into Russia on March 18, 2014.

“I told all my colleagues, there were four of them, that the situation in Ukraine has forced us to start working on returning Crimea to Russia,” Putin says in the film, recounting a late-night meeting with his security chiefs in late February 2014. “We can’t leave that territory and the people who live there at the mercy of fate.”

The confession didn’t leave any good options for Russian newsmen like Dmitri Kiselyov, who runs the Kremlin’s media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya and hosts a prime-time news and analysis show on state TV. He could either admit to misleading viewers last year and, in effect, blame Putin for the deception, or he could deny that any deception had occurred.

 

Confronted this week with the dilemma, Kiselyov stuck to denials.

“Vladimir Putin never changed his position,” he told TIME on Wednesday at the headquarters of his media corporation in Moscow. “Look, he never said that our troops aren’t there, because we always had a base there,” Kiselyov said, referring to the Russian naval base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Pressed on the identity of the troops who had surrounded and in some cases besieged Ukrainian military bases in Crimea last March, Kiselyov said: “The troops surrounding them were local self-defense forces, but not Russian troops.”

It was an odd position to take. Although critics of the Kremlin have often accused Russian state media of distorting facts and misleading viewers, this is the first time that such a momentous distortion has been so clearly and demonstrably false, contradicting not only the version of events presented in most independent media but also out of sync with Putin’s own statements.

In early March 2014, Putin was asked during a press conference to identify the troops who were fanning out across Crimea, driving Russian military vehicles but wearing no identifying markers on their uniforms. “Why don’t you take a look at the post-Soviet states,” Putin answered, according to a transcript on the Kremlin website. “There are many uniforms there that are similar. You can go to a store and buy any kind of uniform.” The journalist persisted: Were they Russian soldiers or not? Those were local self-defense units,” Putin said.

Compare that line to his confession in the documentary—which was titled, Crimea: Homeward Bound—and it is clear that Putin did change his position. Not only does the President admit in the film to ordering his security forces to take control of Crimea last spring, but he also claims to have overseen the operation personally. “Our advantage was that I was personally dealing with it,” he says.

This came on top of Putin’s admission last April, a month after the annexation, that “Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces,” and that in doing so, they acted in “a civil but a decisive and professional manner.” Moreover, the dramatic re-enactments of the seizure of Crimea shown in the documentary this month clearly depict the invading troops as Russian military, not local self-defense units.

Yet Kiselyov still continues to deny that Russian troops ever intervened in Crimea. “They were near by, at the base,” he tells TIME. “If there had been a conflict there, they would have intervened. But they did not intervene.”

He is not the only senior figure in the Kremlin’s media empire to take this peculiar stance. Last fall, TIME put a similar round of questions to Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of RT, the state-funded television network that broadcasts around the world in English, Spanish and Arabic. She also stuck to the claims that Putin made in March of last year about the Russian troops in Crimea being local self-defense forces. Asked about the apparent change in Putin’s story after that, she replied, “He never said that we fooled you… He did not admit that earlier statements were untrue.”

Since the annexation of Crimea, a similar debate has been raging over the role that Russian troops have played in the war in eastern Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have been killed amid fighting between Ukrainian military forces and Russia’s proxy militias. Even as Russian and foreign journalists have documented the presence of Russian military hardware and servicemen on those battlefields, Putin has repeatedly denied sending any of his forces to fight alongside Ukrainian separatists, which the Kremlin has also referred to as local self-defense forces.

Asked on Wednesday whether Putin might be similarly deceiving the public on this question, just as he did last year with the invasion of Crimea, Kiselyov replied that he was “100% sure” that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. And what if a year from now the President admits in another documentary that he did send his forces to fight in those regions? “So far that hasn’t happened,” Kiselyov said. But if it does, Russians shouldn’t expect their fourth estate to admit to spreading falsehoods. It is apparently easier to stick to their denials.

TIME Ukraine

Theft of Ukraine’s ‘Golden Loaf’ Reflects the Revolution’s Failings

A visitor of the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev wears a decoration depicting the so called "Golden loaf" found in the residence of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych residence, during the opening of an exhibition on April 25, 2014.
Sergei Supinsky—AFP/Getty Images A visitor of the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev wears a decoration depicting the so called "Golden loaf" found in the residence of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych residence, during the opening of an exhibition on April 25, 2014.

The disappearance of a symbol of the revolution comes as President Poroshenko's approval rating crumbles

When revolutionaries stormed the mansion of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych one year ago, a few of them ran up the winding staircase to the master bathroom, expecting to find the golden toilet that was rumored to be in the house. Instead, as they rifled through the gaudy rooms that day, they found something better, or at least more bizarre: a golden loaf of bread, weighing about two kilograms, that a prominent businessman had given the President as a gift in an elaborate wooden box.

Of all the pieces of cartoonish opulence found on the palace grounds – including a stuffed lion, a golf course, a private zoo and a floating restaurant in the shape of a pirate ship – the golden loaf became the most famous token of the corruption that fueled the rebellion. In the months that followed, key chains and refrigerator magnets of the loaf were sold on Kiev’s Independent Square as mementoes of the revolution and its promise to make politicians stop stealing from the people. But on Tuesday, March 17, its symbolism came full circle when Ukraine’s new government announced that the loaf had itself been stolen.

“It turns out that the location of the famous golden loaf is unknown,” said Dmitri Dobrodomov, chairman of the committee in charge of combating corruption in Ukraine’s post-revolutionary parliament. “In essence, it was stolen. The question is: by whom?” said the lawmaker, an ally of Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko.

It was another embarrassing setback for Poroshenko’s government, which has struggled to keep the pledges of the revolution over the past year as Ukraine fights a war with Russia’s proxy militias in its eastern regions. “With one hand we’re firing back at the aggressor, with the other we’re speeding up reforms,” Poroshenko said in a speech last month, on the one-year anniversary of the uprising that brought him to power. “Once we stop the war,” Poroshenko assured the nation, “it’ll just take a few years before everyone notices how Ukraine is changing.”

But Ukrainians are getting impatient. At the start of February, Poroshenko’s approval ratings dropped below 50% for the first time since he took office in June, according to a nationwide poll conducted by the Research & Branding Group, a leading Ukrainian pollster. More alarming for his government, nearly half of respondents in the survey (46%) said the revolution had failed to meet its goals of uprooting corruption. One in five said they were prepared to take part in another uprising to finish the work of the last one. “This is an incredibly huge number,” says Evgeny Kopatko, the director of the polling agency. “It shows that the protest potential is still extremely high. People just don’t see the changes that they were expecting.”

That is especially true when it comes to graft. More than a year since the uprising, not one senior official from the Yanukovych government has stood trial for corruption. The revolution has failed to improve Ukraine’s standing in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index released in December; out of 175 countries, Ukraine stood in 142nd place, still the most corrupt in Europe and still lagging behind Russia, which took the 136th slot.

Poroshenko’s reluctance to crack down on Ukraine’s political elites is easily understood. During the past year of war in Ukraine, he has often relied on the wealth and influence of the country’s oligarchs, who have helped bankroll the military forces that are fighting against separatist rebels along the border with Russia. Antagonizing these oligarchs with a far-reaching crackdown on corruption could risk a mutiny among them, which is the last thing Poroshenko needs.

“There is a great disappointment in this sense,” says Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of the Institute of World Policy, a Kiev-based think tank. “People see that the war is being used as an excuse to delay various reforms,” she says. “And it occurs to people that [the government] may even be interested in having this conflict to delay the war against corruption.”

But as the fighting eases and the ceasefire takes hold in eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko will have to turn his focus back toward the promises of the uprising he helped to lead. Yanukovych’s abandoned palace might be a place to start. Although the new government had planned to turn it into a “museum of corruption,” the property has instead become a monument to the revolution’s unfinished business. “It’s all still up in the air,” says Petro Oleynik, the former revolutionary who has been living at the palace for more than a year, serving as a kind of unofficial groundskeeper. “Other than Yanukovych this place doesn’t belong to anyone, because no one has come here to claim it. Only the marauders still come here and steal things.”

In late February, when TIME visited the property, the golden loaf was still prominently displayed in a window, perched alongside a mocking effigy of Yanukovych that sat on the sill. Above it was a sign offering tours of the mansion for 200 hryvnia per person, about $7 at the current exchange rate but prohibitively expensive for most Ukrainians. Oleynik said the profit from these tours goes toward maintaining the house, as does the money from the other businesses he is running on the property, such as the sale of milk from Yanukovych’s cows.

But when TIME called him to inquire about the loaf on Tuesday, Oleynik replied that he was busy and hung up the phone. The theft, in any case, would likely not have surprised him. On a recent Saturday, he showed a French family around the property, pointing at various items in the gilded bathrooms, private cinema and karaoke room and stating their supposed prices. Lebanese cedar for the ceiling: $12 million. A shiny trash can near the sink: $700. “It’s another world,” said one of the awestruck tourists.

Many of the smaller items, Oleynik explained, had already been stolen as souvenirs, a practice he seemed to feel was unavoidable. “Sometimes it’s better to look the other way even when someone is stealing,” he said, “because if you anger them, they’ll return and start breaking things.”

TIME On Our Radar

Discover the Winners of the First Istanbul Photo Awards

The Photo Of The Year award goes to Daniel Berehulak

The Turkish-based Anadolu news agency has announced the winners of the first annual Istanbul Photo Awards.

Daniel Berehulak’s photograph of an eight-year old Ebola victim being carried to a treatment center shortly before his death in Liberia won the top prize, with a jury of nine professional photo editors and photographers finding that this poignant scene underscored the essential power of photojournalism as a relatable form of communication across the globe.

In total, 11 photographers from seven countries received prizes in four categories. The First Place Prize for News Single went to Jerome Sessini for his heart-wrenching photograph of a victim of the Malaysia Airlines MH-17 crash lying in a pastoral wheat field in Eastern Ukraine.

The Second Place Prize went to Turkish photographer Bulent Kilic who captured two Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters nearly engulfed by a fireball after U.S. airstrikes hit their position in the Syrian town of Kobani, directly across the Turkish border. Third Prize went to Fernando Morales for his surreal photograph of a boy receiving treatment for Internet and gaming addiction at a facility in China.

At the conclusion of the deliberations, jury members remarked that these unforgettable images are lasting reminders of the most important news stories of the last year and will remain relevant for years to come: a horrific disease which ravaged Western Africa; a civilian aircraft unwittingly thrust into the Ukrainian conflict, marking a turning point in that war; a retaliation against the threat of ISIS whose horrific acts of aggression shocked the world; and finally, the wholly modern affliction of Internet addiction—a symbol of our escapist compulsions.

Ahmet Sell, the Visual News Editor-in-Chief of the Anadolou Agency, has ambitious goals for the future of photojournalism – both stills and video – at the news agency, and he sees the Istanbul Photo Awards as an important part of that mission. Moving forward, he hopes to bring attention to stories and photographers, most especially in the Middle East.

“There is a strong visual culture in Turkey [and yet] in this region there isn’t another photo competition,” he says. This year, for the first edition of the awards, more than 12,000 photographs from 100 countries were submitted.

Judges this year included French photographers Patrick Chauvel and Guillaume Herbault, Michel Scotto of Agence France-Presse, Turkish photojournalist Firat Caglayan, and TIME’s International Photo Editor Alice Gabriner among others.

TIME war

Death Tolls of World Conflicts Rose Dramatically Last Year

A man carries a wounded person in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of the Syrian capital Damascus, following reported air strikes by regime forces on March 15, 2015.
Abd Doumany—AFP/Getty Images A man carries a wounded person in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of the Syrian capital Damascus, following reported air strikes by regime forces on March 15, 2015.

The crisis in Syria was the deadliest in 2014

The death tolls of the world’s gravest conflicts rose 28 percent between 2013 and 2014, partly due to increased violence from Islamic extremist groups, according to a new report.

In 2014, more than 76,000 people were killed in Syria, 21,000 were killed in Iraq, 14,638 were killed in Afghanistan and 11,529 were killed in Nigeria, according to a Wednesday study from the Project for the Study of the 21st Century, Reuters reports. But the data, whose sources include the United Nations, the U.S. military and the Syria Observatory for Human Rights, paint an incomplete picture.

“Assessing casualty figures in conflict is notoriously difficult and many of the figures we are looking at here are probably underestimates,” Peter Apps, the executive director of PS21, told Reuters. “The important thing, however, is that when you compare like with like data for 2014 and 2013, you get a very significant increase.”

The conflict in Syria was the bloodiest, causing the most deaths for the second year in a row. Outside of the Middle East, the conflict in Ukraine pushed the country up to the list’s eighth place.

[Reuters]

TIME Ukraine

Tensions Escalate Between Kiev and Moscow Over ‘Special Status’ Bill

Ukrainian President Poroshenko addresses news conference following talks in Berlin
Axel Schmidt —Reuters Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses a news conference following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on March 16, 2015

“These actions by the Kiev authorities are yet another evidence of its policy of undermining the Minsk process”

Ukrainian legislators approved revisions to a law offering limited self-rule to pro-Russian insurgents in the country’s southeast on Tuesday, angering both rebels and the Kremlin alike who say the move undermines a fragile cease-fire agreement inked last month.

The legislation, which was first passed last September, grants “special status” and greater political autonomy to swaths of territory controlled by armed separatists. However, thanks to the newly introduced amendments, the law will only go into effect after internationally monitored elections are conducted in the rebel-held areas.

Moscow had already lambasted the revisions backed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and accused his administration of sabotaging the Minsk Protocol.

“These actions by the Kiev authorities are yet another evidence of its policy of undermining the Minsk process, which is already manifested in its appeals to the West to step up weapon deliveries to the Ukrainian military,” wrote Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the eve of the revisions’ passing.

However, proponents of the amendment appeared to pay little heed to the Kremlin’s concerns. “We are adopting these laws not for Putin or the occupiers,” said Andriy Parubiy, the parliament’s deputy speaker, according to Reuters.

Sporadic fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian insurgents continues to flare on occasion in the country’s eastern Donbas region. However, observers say the latest truce continues to hold and has led to a dramatic reduction in hostilities over the last month.

TIME russia

Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-CRISIS-CRIMEA-DOCUMENTARY
Dmitry Serebryakov —AFP/Getty Images A woman looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking as she watches an internet broadcast of the documentary Homeward Bound, on March 15, 2015 in Moscow.

"We were ready to do it"

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.

In the interview, Putin claimed he began hatching plans to seize the peninsula after Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled the country following months of protests. Putin also alleged he personally delivered direct orders to the country’s armed forces, as thousands of elite Russian soldiers fanned out across Crimea last March.

When asked whether Moscow’s nuclear capabilities were also on standby, Putin answered bluntly: “We were ready to do it.”

The airing of Putin’s nuclear comments comes as the Russian strongman has seemingly vanished from the public sphere only days after a prominent opposition leader was assassinated within earshot of the Kremlin.

The President was reportedly last seen on March 5, fueling rumors that the 62-year-old had fallen ill or was caught up in an internal power struggle.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. India has banned a documentary on the 2012 gang rape that rocked the country. That was a huge mistake.

By Shashi Tharoor at NDTV

2. Berkeley decided to give campus departments a real incentive to cut power consumption by charging them directly — and energy use went down.

By Meredith Fowlie in The Berkeley Blog

3. Pakistan is helping Afghanistan’s president make peace with the Taliban. Other powers should back him.

By the Economist

4. Ukraine’s military will never be strong enough to beat Russia outright. But it doesn’t have to be.

By Alexander J. Motyl in Foreign Policy

5. Micro-bubbles — guided with magnets, deployed with sound waves — could revolutionize the delivery of medicine and even chemotherapy.

By Charvy Narain at the Oxford Science Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Ukraine

Coal Mine Blast in Eastern Ukraine Kills 1, Traps Dozens

Relatives of miners leave the main entrance of the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk after a blast occured on March 4, 2015.
John MacDougall—AFP/Getty Images Relatives of miners leave the main entrance of the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk after a blast occured on March 4, 2015.

With more than 30 workers trapped, miners were enlisted to clear rubble, but operations were hampered by limited access to the deep subterranean network

(DONETSK, Ukraine) — An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, rebel and government officials said. An injured miner reported seeing five bodies.

With more than 30 workers trapped, miners were enlisted to clear rubble, but operations were hampered by limited access to the deep subterranean network.

The explosion at the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk, an eastern city under separatist control, was not caused by shelling, rebel authorities said. Eastern Ukraine has been wracked by fighting between government forces and Russian-backed rebels for almost a year, a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people.

The blast Wednesday occurred more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) underground as 230 workers were in the mine, separatist authorities in Donetsk said in a statement, blaming a combustible mixture of methane and air — a common cause of industrial mining accidents.

By mid-afternoon, one miner was confirmed dead, 198 workers had been evacuated from the mine and the fate of 32 others was unknown, Donetsk rebel officials said.

It was not possible to immediately reconcile the figures given by different authorities.

One lightly wounded miner being evacuated, who gave his name only as Sergei, told The Associated Press that he saw five bodies being pulled out, but provided no further details.

Another injured miner, 42-year-old Igor Murygin, said at a hospital in Donetsk that he was blown off his feet by the impact of the explosion.

“When I came to, there was dust everywhere. People were groaning,” said Murygin, who doctors said had burns over 20 percent of his body.

Murygin said the mine had installed new equipment and that nothing appeared to be out of order.

The rebels said 15 miners were sent to medical centers in Donetsk.

“For now, I can say only that 32 people are below ground. One person has died,” Ivan Prikhodko, administrative head of the Kiev district in Donetsk, where the affected mine is located, told Donetsk News Agency. “Until rescuers get to them, speaking about how many people have died would be unethical.”

A mine rescue services representative, Yuliana Bedilo, also said only one death had been confirmed.

Miners arriving for their morning shift, shortly after the accident, have helped in the recovery operation. Reaching the stricken portion of the mine has been complicated, however, as one of the three entrances has been forced closed by artillery shelling that has blighted Donetsk. That entrance is the closest to the area where the trapped miners are located.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in Kiev that rebels had prevented a team of 60 Ukrainian rescue workers from reaching the mine to provide assistance. But leading rebel representative Denis Pushilin denied that Ukrainian authorities had offered any help.

“If we truly need assistance, we will turn to Russia,” Pushilin was quoted as saying by the Donetsk News Agency.

Separatist officials trickled into the grounds of the mine throughout the morning, but all refused to respond to questions, a stance that frustrated many miners’ families.

Valentina Petrova came to the Zasyadko mine looking for her 47-year-old son, Vladimir.

“He was supposed to retire next year. Everyone is angry that they say on TV that 32 people died but nobody tells us anything,” she said.

Workers complained volubly about the long history of safety violations at the Zasyadko mine.

One, who gave only his first name, Kostya, said two of his brothers had been injured in earlier blasts at the same mine.

“We work like crazy for peanuts. We want this place to be safe. We want our children to be able to work here,” he told the AP.

The mine has a history of deadly accidents, including one in November 2007 that killed 101 workers, and two more in December 2007 that killed 52 miners and then five more workers.

Ninety-nine people were killed in Ukraine’s coal mines in 2014, according to mining safety bodies. Thirteen of those deaths were a direct result of the war in the east, where mines have frequently been struck in artillery duels between rebel and Ukrainian government forces.

___

Peter Leonard in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

TIME Ukraine

Top U.S. General Says Washington Should Consider Arming Ukraine

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill
Joshua Roberts—Reuters Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015

"Putin’s ultimate objective is to fracture NATO," says General Martin Dempsey

The U.S. military’s leading general says Washington should now consider providing Ukrainian forces with lethal aid to help combat the nation’s pro-Kremlin insurgency.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey argued during a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the allegedly Russian-backed rebellion threatens to undo more than six decades of peace in Europe and could potentially splinter the NATO alliance.

“I think we should absolutely consider lethal aid and it ought to be in the context of NATO allies because Putin’s ultimate objective is to fracture NATO,” Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The general’s remarks echo similar pleas made in recent months by a plethora of top American foreign policy officials. The U.S. has already provided approximately $100 million in nonlethal aid to Ukraine, but has refrained thus far from directly arming the country.

However, experts question whether supplying Kiev with advanced weaponry would force the Kremlin to reassess its policy goals in Ukraine.

“Russia is not going to give up in Ukraine, because it is protecting its strategic interests in Ukraine,” Alexander Korolev, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, tells TIME. “Even if the costs of the conflict are very high for Russia, Russia will be willing to bear those costs.”

On Monday, the U.N. published a report claiming that an estimated 6,000 people have been killed and at least 1 million displaced since the pro-Russian uprising erupted in southeastern Ukraine last April.

“All aspects of people’s lives are being negatively affected, and the situation is increasingly untenable for the local inhabitants, especially in areas controlled by the armed groups,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement.

Representatives from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported this week that fighting in rebel strongholds in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions appears to be waning, after a tenuous cease-fire was inked in Belarus last month.

But during a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said lasting peace wouldn’t be achievable until Moscow returns the Crimea peninsula, which was annexed by Russian forces last March.

“There could be no slightest way of normalizing or getting back to business in the relations between Ukraine and Russia without returning to status quo and establishing full Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea,” he said.

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in February, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Stephanie Sinclair‘s work on child and underage brides in Guatemala in the latest installment of her decade-long project spanning 10 countries to document the issue of child marriage around the world. In Guatemala, over half of all girls are married before 18, and over 10% under 15. Many girls marry men far older than themselves, end up withdrawing from school and become mothers long before they are physically and emotionally ready. Sinclair’s powerful pictures and accompanying video capture Guatemalan girls trying to come to terms with the harsh realities of early motherhood, especially for those who have been abandoned by their husbands.

Stephanie Sinclair: Child, Bride, Mother (The New York Times) See also the Too Young To Wed website.

Sebastian Liste: The Media Doesn’t Care What Happens Here (The New York Times Magazine) These photographs capture a group of amateur journalists trying to cover the violence in one of the largest urban slums in Brazil, Complexo do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro.

Ross McDonnell: Inside the Frozen Trenches of Eastern Ukraine (TIME LightBox) The Irish photographer documented the Ukrainian soldiers in the week preceding the most recent, fragile cease-fire.

Sergey Ponomarev: Pro-Russian fighters in the ruins of Donetsk airport (The Globe and Mail) Haunting scenes of the Pro-Russian held remains of Donetsk airport.

Alex Majoli: Athens (National Geographic) The Magnum photographer captures the people of Greece’s struggling capital for the magazine’s Two Cities, Two Europes feature on Athens and Berlin.

Gerd Ludwig: Berlin (National Geographic) Ludwig documents Germany’s booming capital for the magazine’s Two Cities, Two Europes feature on Athens and Berlin.

John Stanmeyer: Fleeing Terror, Finding Refuge (National Geographic) These photographs show the desperate conditions facing Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Edmund Clark: The Mountains Of Majeed (Wired RawFile) The British photographer’s latest book is the Bagram Airfield U.S. Military base in Afghanistan, which one held the infamous detention facility. Also published on TIME LightBox.

Sarker Protick: What Remains (The New Yorker Photo Booth) This moving, beautiful series documents the photographer’s grandparents. The work was recently awarded 2nd Prize in the Daily Life stories category in the World Press Photo 2015 contest.

Muhammed Muheisen: Leading a Double Life in Pakistan (The Washington Post In Sight) The Associated Press photographer captures a group of cross-dressers and transgender Pakistani men to offer a glimpse of a rarely seen side of the conservative country.

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