I started drawing victims on the second day of the war. Only one portrait a day so that the process does not become mechanical. I search Facebook for the words “загинув” and “загинула”—both mean “died” in Ukrainian, then I research the names. There’s often only one portrait, one photo made of a dead body. The likeness in my drawing is elusive, but I try to achieve clarity about the impression I get from the person’s face. I do not hope to understand more. I then share the drawing in a daily post on a secure Telegram channel, where 2,500 subscribers get their daily confrontation with the collateral damage of today’s war.
The hashtag and title refer to a quote from Sergey Lavrov, the Russian minister of foreign affairs. “I express my condolences for the dead children, but the Russian Armed Forces use high-precision weapons,” he said during a press conference. “And one should remember the term collateral damage.”
Estimating how many people have died in the conflict since 24 February is difficult. Eight weeks into the war, in mid-April, the UN had recorded 1,923 civilian deaths in the country, but the agency made it clear it “believes that the actual figures are considerably higher.” Local authorities in Kyiv set the amount of confirmed deaths at 5,000 in the beginning of March. Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko estimates that between 20,000 and 22,000 people have died in Mariupol, one of the hardest hit cities.