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A 32-year-old French journalist was killed in eastern Ukraine on Monday, fatally hit by shrapnel while covering a Ukrainian evacuation operation, according to the French news channel he worked for. .
According to BFM TV, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed while “covering a humanitarian operation in an armored vehicle” near Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the Donbass region hotly contested by Russian and Ukrainian forces. He had worked for six years for the French television channel.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Leclerc-Imhoff on Twitter, saying he “was in Ukraine to show the reality of war”.
“Aboard a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot,” Macron tweeted.
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Macron expressed his condolences to his family, loved ones and colleagues and spoke of “France’s unconditional support” for “those who carry out the difficult mission of informing in theaters of operations”.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said the journalist’s death was “deeply shocking”. She tweeted that he was killed “by Russian bombing”.
“France demands that a transparent investigation be opened as soon as possible to shed full light on the circumstances of this tragedy,” she said in a statement.
Colonna, who was on a scheduled visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday, later called the tragedy a “crime” to reporters.
She says she spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and asked him to “do everything” so that the body of the journalist is brought back to France as soon as possible. She said that the investigation into the circumstances of the death in the war zone will be carried out by the Ukrainian authorities.
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BFM TV reported that Leclerc-Imhoff was accompanied by a slightly injured male colleague. A Ukrainian woman who worked with them was not hit.
Earlier Monday, Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai announced the death of Leclerc-Imhoff in a Telegram message, saying Russian forces fired on an armored vehicle moving to pick up people to be evacuated.
“Shrapnel pierced the armor of the vehicle, mortally wounding an accredited French journalist who was covering the evacuation in the neck. The patrolman was saved by his helmet,” he wrote.
Following the attack, the evacuation was called off, Haidai said.
He posted an image of Leclerc-Imhoff’s Ukrainian press credential and footage of what he said were the aftermath of the attack.
Haidai said Leclerc-Imhoff’s body had been evacuated to the nearby Ukrainian town of Bakhmut and would be taken to the central town of Dnipro for an autopsy.
He added that the patrolman accompanying the vehicle had been hit by shrapnel in the head and taken to a military hospital.
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The head of the National Union of Ukrainian Journalists, Serhiy Tomilenko, speaking to the AP, said officials were discussing how to repatriate his body to France, “which, under the conditions of military activity and of constant shelling, is not so easy to do”.
“Journalists are paying with their lives for the right to know the truth about what is happening during the war in Ukraine,” he said.
Reporters Without Borders boss Christophe Deloire said that “from the start of the war, we saw that journalists, and of course other citizens, civilians, were targeted by Russian forces”.
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According to Deloire, Leclerc-Imhoff was heading towards the Donbass region in a humanitarian bus which was going to pick up people and evacuate them.
Several Ukrainian and foreign journalists have been killed since February, including another French national, veteran videographer Pierre Zakrzewski, 55.
Zakrzewski, who also had Irish nationality, and 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, both working for Fox News, were killed when their vehicle came under fire outside Kyiv on March 14.
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