According to Ukrainian and French authorities, a French journalist was killed when his armed evacuated car was hit by shrapnel from a Russian shell near the city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.
In a response, BFMTV said it was “tremendously saddened” to report the loss of Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, a journalist and cinematographer who had worked for the station for six years and was on his second tour of war, adding that he was murdered on the route to Lysychansk.
“Our correspondent was covering the ongoing conflict. On Monday, while pursuing a humanitarian mission in an armored truck, he was hit by shrapnel, according to the 24-hour news network.
“He was joined by his coworker, Maxime Brandstaetter, who was slightly hurt during the attack, and their fixer, Oksana Leuta, who escaped with minor injuries.” Leclerc-Imhoff was reporting from the easternmost Ukrainian-controlled city, which is under Russian attack.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, stated that the reporter “was in Ukraine to show the realities of the war.” He has shot dead on board a humanitarian bus, amid civilians fleeing to flee Russian bombs. I share the sorrow of Frédéric Leclerc’s family, Imhoff’s relatives, and coworkers, to whom I express my sympathies.”
“A little over a month earlier, I gave an interview to this particular TV channel,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated. It was my first full-fledged wartime interview with the French press. My sincerest sympathies go out to Frédéric’s coworkers and family. After February 24, he became the 32nd media official to be killed.”
The tragedy, according to BFMTV, “reminds us of the perils confronting all reporters who have been documenting this crisis at the danger of their lives for more than three months already.”
Over a dozen reporters have been slain while covering the Ukraine crisis, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media advocacy group.
Catherine Colonna, France’s new foreign affairs minister, has ordered an investigation into Leclerc-murder. Imhoff’s “France expects that the origins of this tragedy be investigated as quickly as possible and transparently,” she said in a statement.
Serhiy Haidai, the regional governor of Luhansk, claimed on Telegram that the armed evacuation van came “under hostile fire” while collecting ten people from the area. The Russian authorities, who have frequently denied targeting civilians in Ukraine, did not respond immediately.
He shared a photo of Leclerc-Ukrainian Imhoff’s press authorization as well as photographs of the attack’s aftermath. According to Anton Gerashchenko of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, another French reporter was injured, as was a Ukrainian woman who was with them.
According to him, Leclerc-body Imhoff’s was taken to the adjacent Ukrainian-controlled city of Bakhmut, from which it will be sent to Dnipro, Ukraine’s capital, for an autopsy. The patrol officer who was following the truck was hit in the head by shrapnel and brought to a military hospital, he said.
“The car’s armor was damaged by shrapnel from the explosives… An authorized French journalist who was reporting on the evacuation sustained a deadly wound in the neck. “A helmet saved a police officer on patrol,” Haidai added.
As per the Russian news outlet Tass, Andrei Marotchko, a spokesperson for the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, Leclerc-Imhoff was doubtful to be a reporter and could have been transferring arms to Ukrainian soldiers.
“He could be classified as a mercenary from another country. We can state with sure that he was a supporter of far-right Ukrainian troops because we’ve seen the type of assistance these volunteers provide. They send weapons and ammunition that can harm civilians.”
After the killing, efforts to evacuate inhabitants from the area were halted as Russian tanks and troops advanced towards Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine’s largest city still controlled in the Donbas.
Witnesses described Russian tanks marching towards the city’s center one explosion at a moment, razing it all in their way that survived following intense bombardment, which Ukrainian authorities stated had resulted in conditions similar to Mariupol on the ground.
“They [the Russian army] keep using the same techniques,” Haidai explained. “They shell for several hours in a succession — three, four, or five – and then attack.” Those who attack will perish. The bombardment and attacks resume, and so on until they succeed in breaking into somewhere.”
As Russian forces tried to cut off supply lines and surround the city’s surviving defenders, witnesses reported the city was bombarded “200 times an hour.”
In a telephone conversation with the Associated Press, the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, stated that Russian troops had “moved a few streets into the city center.” He claimed that Ukrainian forces were rioting in the streets to drive the Russians out and that the 12,000-13,000 residents who remained in the city were taking refuge in basements and tunnels to avoid the constant bombing.
The struggle for Sievierodonetsk, which is located on the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets roughly 90 miles south of the Russian border, is in the spotlight as Russia continues to make gradual but steady progress in the industrial Donbas.