Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian fixer and interpreter, Andrei Mironov, were killed by mortar fire near Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region on 24 May. William Roguelon, a French photographer working for the Wostok Press agency who was with them, sustained leg injuries from the same shell.
“We would like to express our deep sadness and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims,” Reporters Without Borders research director Lucie Morillon said.
“We are shocked by the death of these two seasoned media workers. The crisis in eastern Ukraine is getting more and more violent and dangerous for the journalists covering it. We call on all parties to the conflict to respect the work of journalists, regardless of the editorial policies of their news organizations. It is the public’s right to information that is threatened when a journalist is targeted.”
Rocchelli, Roguelon, Mironov and their driver were caught in an exchange of fire in Andreievka, a village a few kilometres south of Sloviansk, on the evening of 24 May. Roguelon said “between 40 and 60 mortar shells” were fired, one of them landing in the ditch in which they had taken cover.
Although injured in the legs, Roguelon was able to flee and cross the rebel lines brandishing his camera. Residents took him to Andreievka’s hospital. After a period of uncertainty and contradictory reports, the Italian foreign ministry confirmed Rocchelli’s death. Relatives have not yet identified his and Mironov’s bodies.
Since founding the Cesura photographers’ collective with four other photographers in 2008, Rocchelli had covered the conflict in Afghanistan and the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Libya. He had also visited Kyrgyzstan and the Caucasus. Based in Milan and Moscow, he worked for leading western media including Le Monde, L’Espresso and Foreign Policy, as well as Russian media such as Novaya Gazeta and Kommersant.
He had been in eastern Ukraine for several weeks accompanied by Mironov, a human rights activist, member of the Russian NGO Memorial and former Soviet dissident, who had learned Italian in a work camp and often worked with Italian journalists.
A total of 218 journalists were physically attacked or injured in Ukraine in the first four months of this year, but Rocchelli and his fixer were the first media workers to be killed since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The clashes between the Ukrainian armed forces and anti-Kiev rebels are becoming more and more violent. The climate was particularly tense on the eve of yesterday’s presidential election. A crew with the Belarusian TV station Belsat also came under at a checkpoint near Sloviansk on 24 May and shots were fired at their car a few hours later without anyone being injured.