French journalist dies due to Russian bombardment in east Ukraine

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A French journalist was killed Monday during a Russian bombardment that struck a vehicle evacuating civilians from eastern Ukraine, French and Ukrainian officials said.

“Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was in Ukraine to show the reality of war,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

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“Aboard a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot.”

The 32-year-old reporter was working for BFM TV and was on his second Ukraine reporting trip since the war began on February 24, according to the French news station.

He was near Severodonetsk, a city in Ukraine’s east that has been pounded by advancing Russian troops in recent weeks, the French and Ukrainian foreign ministries said in separate statements.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who visited Kyiv on Monday, said on Twitter that Leclerc-Imhoff had been killed “by a Russian bombardment of a humanitarian mission while he was carrying out his duty to inform”.

“I have spoken with the government of Lugansk and asked President [Volodymyr] Zelensky for an inquiry, and they assured me of their help and support,” she wrote.

The French foreign ministry has called for a “transparent inquiry” into the circumstances of his death. Later on Monday, French anti-terrorism prosecutors said they would open an investigation into possible war crimes in relation to the incident.

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BFM said its journalist had been hit by shrapnel from the bombing and his colleague Maxime Brandstaetter was wounded. Their local fixer Oksana Leuta was not hurt.

“This tragic event reminds us of the dangers faced by all journalists who have been risking their lives to describe this conflict for more than three months now,” BFM said in a statement.

Reporting from outside the French embassy in Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg explained that the Severodonetsk and Lysychansk area where Leclerc-Imhoff was reporting has come under sustained Russian attack over the past few days.

“Evacuation missions from those cities are dangerous, they don’t happen every day because sometimes the Ukrainian military says it’s too dangerous to go there. The Russians are firing on the roads in that part of the Luhansk region and unfortunately it appears that the humanitarian vehicle that the journalist was travelling on was hit and he was at the front of the vehicle, according to Ukrainian authorities,” said Cragg.

 

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