‘Azovstal’s eyes and voice’ The soldier who documented the siege of Azovstal from the inside
On May 20, Azov regiment member and Mariupol defender Dmytro Kozatsky posted two farewell photos on social media as he left the Azovstal steel plant, where he had been living under siege for over two months.
“Well, that’s it. Thank you for the shelter, Azovstal — the place of my death and of my life. Anyway, while I’m taken captive, I’m leaving you these high-quality photos. Submit them to all of the journalism prizes and photo competitions, and if I happen to win something, it’ll be a nice surprise after my release. Thank you all for the support. Until we meet again,” he wrote, leaving a link to a Google Drive folder.
Kozatsky’s farewell photos show a man in a military uniform among the plant’s ruins.
According to local media, Kozatsky is 26 years old and was born in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region. Until 2014, he was a political science student at the Ostroh Academy in the Rivne region; after that, he enlisted in Ukraine’s National Guard. Hromadske has reported that Kozatsky began serving in Mariupol in 2015, and in 2017, he joined the Azov regiment. According to 1+1 and Vogue Ukraine, he currently leads the regiment’s press service.
In Ukraine, Kozatsky is now known as “Azovstal’s eyes and voice.” On May 10, as Russian tried to capture the facility, the Azov regiment published Kozatsky’s photo collection depicting Azovstal’s defenders and the injuries they’ve suffered.
On May 16, another one of Kozatsky’s shots, this one showing Ukrainian soldiers being illuminated by rays of light coming through the plant’s damaged roof, spread quickly around social media and was dubbed “Light Will Win.”
Kozatsky is also well-known for his rendition of Stefania, the Ukrainian rap group Kalush Orchestra’s song that won Eurovision 2022. The day after Ukraine’s victory in the singing competition, Kozatsky posted a video showing him singing the song in Azovstal with the sound of shelling in the background.
Ukrainian soldiers started defending Azovstal from Russian troops in mid-March. On May 16, they began exiting the besieged plant. On May 20, Russian authorities reported that over 1,900 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered from Azovstal and been taken captive.
Azovstal’s defenders themselves said that they left the facility at their leaders’ orders; the Ukrainian government has been tight-lipped on the surrender, using the term “rescue mission,” rather than “prisoners” in official statements. Ukrainian officials have previously said that they hope to conduct a prisoner exchange to free Azovstal’s defenders.