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Finalist 2022

Santi Palacios

The Bucha massacre


The town of Bucha, very close to Kyiv, will go down in history as one of the symbols of the atrocities perpetrated by Russian forces in the invasion of Ukraine. As the days went by, after the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from this town, taken in the initial stages of the war, details of the executions, murders, and abuses that took place during the month-long occupation emerged.   

This photo essay captures the sensations and images immediately after the departure of the Russian troops and during the days and weeks that followed, documenting a scene in which the trail of war crimes is visible. The signs of violence on the corpses, the desolation of the landscape, and the shocked faces of the survivors and their testimonies spoke of a massacre whose real dimension gradually became known.   

Nearly half a thousand civilians were killed in this residential locality; some 3,500 people were trapped and suffered for a month from violence and fear, bombings, and the lack of electricity, water, and heating. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into possible war crimes. The images in this essay capture one of the darkest chapters of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This work was first published in 5W Magazine.


Photojournalist and Editor in Chief of Sonda Internacional, a non-profit media outlet specializing in visual journalism on the climate crisis. Since the beginning of his career Santi has focused on migrations, conflicts and human ecology—these interests stemming from his training as a sociologist.

His work has been published in major magazines and newspapers worldwide, exhibited in dozens of cities, and it has received a number of national and international awards including a World Press Photo in 2017 and Spain’s National Photojournalism Award two years running. In 2016 he was part of the team nominated by the Associated Press for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography; and in 2018 he was selected by the World Press Photo 6x6 Talent Program in Europe.

Santi often contributes to the magazine Revista 5W, the NGO, Open Arms, and is a guest lecturer at the EFTI International Photography School, among others. He was a frequent contributor to the Associated Press from 2014 to 2018, and he has also freelanced occasionally with other media in the past, including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, CNN and El País.