A 32-year-old French journalist was killed on Monday in eastern Ukraine when the armored bus he was riding in was hit by shrapnel from a shell, according to French and Ukrainian authorities.
President Emmanuel Macron of France named the journalist as Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff and said he was in Ukraine to “show the reality of the war.” Mr. Macron expressed his condolences on Twitter. “I share the pain of the family, loved ones and colleagues,” he said.
At least seven journalists have been killed and at least nine have been injured in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, Reporters Without Borders said last week.
BFM TV, the news channel where Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff worked, said he was part of a team of three journalists, including a Ukrainian fixer, that left with a Ukrainian police patrol unit for the city of Lysychansk around midday Monday. The city has been under heavy Russian shelling for the last three months.
Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff and his colleagues were traveling in an armored bus that police have been using for evacuations when an artillery shell landed in front of them, sending a piece of shrapnel through the windscreen. The shelling occurred inside Lysychansk, Oleh Hryhorov, the regional police chief, said by telephone.
BFM TV said that the other French journalist who was with Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff, Maxime Brandstaetter, was wounded in the leg but his injuries were not life-threatening. The Ukrainian fixer who was with them, Oksana Leuta, also was not injured.
Marc-Olivier Fogiel, BFM TV’s managing director, said on air that Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff was making a second reporting trip in Ukraine “at his request,” but that he was not a “risk-taker.” The channel said that Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff was wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest.
Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff, a graduate of the Institut de Journalisme Bordeaux Aquitaine, had been working for the channel for the past six years.
“The newsroom is in mourning this evening,” said an emotional Mr. Fogiel.
The French authorities did not specify who had fired the shell that exploded in front of the bus. The Ukrainian authorities said it had been fired by Russian forces.
In a statement released on the messaging app Telegram, Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian forces had fired at an armored evacuation vehicle and that shrapnel had pierced the armor, hitting Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff in the neck.
Photos accompanying the statement showed the window of a vehicle smashed by what appeared to be the impact of shrapnel. The photos showed bloodstains on the seats and a lifeless body on the ground. A small banner reading “humanitarian aid” in capital letters, with a Ukrainian flag, was affixed to the front of the vehicle.
There has been heavy fighting inside the town of Sievierodonetsk, a mining and industrial town in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region which lies across the river from Lysychansk.
Lysychansk has come increasingly under fire, but teams of journalists have continued to travel into the city to document the plight of civilians.
Catherine Colonna, France’s foreign minister, said in a statement that Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff’s death was “deeply shocking.”
“France demands that a transparent investigation be undertaken as soon as possible to shed full light on the circumstances of this tragedy,” said Ms. Colonna, who was herself on a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday.
Speaking to reporters later in Kyiv, the capital, Ms. Colonna noted that Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff “was doing his job,” calling his death “a tragedy that in reality is a crime.”
Source: NY Times