Dispatch from Libya: Photographs by Yuri Kozyrev

Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME
Libyan rebels scrawl graffiti on a wall near a hospital in Ras Lanuf, March 27, 2011. The wall was previously defaced, in green, by Gaddafi troops.

Updated March 31, 2011

TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev is in eastern Libya, documenting the battle between Gaddafi loyalists and rebel forces. Though he’s been covering conflict for years, he said this is the most dangerous place he’s worked. “It’s like Russian roulette,” he said. “Nobody knows where the bomb will fall.” There were “helicopters shooting at us, rockets — it was heavy. There was no place to hide.”

Kozyrev spoke to TIME as Libyan rebels, emboldened by allied airstrikes, pushed westward toward Sert, birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi. “When we reached the western gate outside of Ajdabiyah, the rebels told us tamam, good all the way to Brega. We followed the rebel trucks to Ras Lanouf. As we pushed forward, more rebels stayed behind, camping on the highway.”

“We have been chasing the rebels all day,” he wrote Sunday, from an abandoned, looted hotel in Ras Lanouf. The highway behind them was littered with crippled tanks, trucks, cars and stores of unspent ammunition. “Gaddafi’s troops appear to have left in a hurry,” he wrote, “abandoning ammunition and disappearing without a fight.”

However, the tables turned Tuesday as the rebels, pounded by Gaddafi missile fire, fled east – again. “Gaddafi’s troops have been moving fast,” Kozyrev wrote in an email Wednesday. “They drive in trucks now. It will be hard to hit them by air strikes – if there will be any.”

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