Maks Levin is a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker who disappeared while working on the front lines near Kyiv, his friend and colleague Markiian Lyseiko said on Tuesday. On March 13, Levin apparently drove in his own car to photograph the fighting in the Vyshhorod district — an area facing intense Russian violence.
The journalist reportedly left his car near the village of Guta-Mezhigirska and went south toward the village of Moschchun. His last communication was apparently from that morning, after which his phone went offline. Levin “may have been injured or captured by Russian troops,” Lyseiko said.
“Me, I will stay on the front line as long as I am physically able,” Levin told VICE in an interview published on March 9. “These soldiers are my friends.”
Levin has been covering war in Ukraine since the 2014 revolution and the fight with Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region in the east. He and Lyseiko were on the front lines covering the Battle of Ilovaisk in August 2014, which became one of the largest military operations in Ukraine and a turning point in Russia’s war with the independent country.
During the battle, 400 Ukrainians who were promised a safe corridor out of the city were slaughtered. Despite being injured, Levin was one of four journalists who managed to escape. He and Lyseiko later created the documentary “After Ilovaisk.”
“The war has affected me personally: in October 2014, Viktor Gurnyak, my good friend, colleague, and volunteer of the Aidar Battalion was killed in a battle at the 31st checkpoint. There were guys in Ilovaisk that I became friends with, some of whom died or went missing,” Levin said of his experience on the front lines.
“We still keep connections with so many people who survived the battle. This story united us forever. And now it is my inner obligation to tell about Ilovaisk survivors.”
Levin was born in Kyiv and has worked with Ukrainian publications like LB.ua and Hromadske, as well as international outlets like Reuters, BBC and The Associated Press. His photos have been published in media ranging from TIME to Ukraine Crisis Media Center to The Moscow Times. He’s also shot projects for organizations like the United Nations, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
“Max has four children, boys,” Levin’s friend and fellow Ukrainian journalist Tetiana Bezruk tweeted. “Max, we are praying for you and we hope you are alive and in touch.”
Lyseiko has asked the public to contact him with any information on Levin’s whereabouts.
“We are deeply concerned about the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Maks Levin, and call on anyone with information on his whereabouts to come forward immediately,” said Gulnoza Said, an official with the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Far too many journalists have gone missing while covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and all parties to the conflict should ensure that the press can work safely and without fear of abduction.”
Levin is the latest journalist in Ukraine to either go missing or be killed. Yevhenii Sakun died March 1, Brent Renaud died March 13, and Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova both died March 14.
Oleg Baturyn and Victoria Roschina both disappeared on March 12. Russian occupiers released Baturyn on Sunday and Roschina on Monday. Roschina was forced to release a video saying Russian troops saved her life.
“The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in,” wrote Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, who were the only remaining international journalists in the bombarded city of Mariupol. The two AP journalists escaped on March 15.