Ninth journalist killed in Ukraine

A Ukrainian reporter was fatally shot by a Russian sniper on 26 April near the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. The ninth journalist to be killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022, he was assisting an Italian reporter for the newspaper La Repubblica, who was wounded in the shoulder. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regards his death as yet another Russian war crime.

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When the Russian guns finally stopped firing, Ukrainian soldiers recovered the body of Bohdan Bitik during the night from the spot where it had lain for several hours on Antonivsky bridge, near Kherson. Despite wearing a garment with the word PRESS that could be seen from afar, Bitik was killed by a sniper bullet. He was not wearing a bulletproof vest.

“Deliberately attacking a journalist during an armed conflict is a war crime under international law. Bohdan Bitik’s death is a cruel reminder that, contrary to their obligation to ensure the safety of civilians, including journalists, armed forces use them as targets. We offer our sincere condolences to the slain journalist’s family and, by continuing to inform international judicial authorities, we will do everything possible to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished.

Jeanne Cavelier
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk

RSF has already filed seven complaints with the International Criminal Court and Ukraine’s prosecutor-general in connection with a total of 44 crimes committed in Ukraine affecting more than 100 journalists and 11 TV and radio towers or installations.

Aged 46, Bitik was a Kyiv-based journalist who often worked with Italian media outlets covering the war in Ukraine. In Kherson, he was assisting La Repubblica correspondent Corrado Zunino, with whom he had already worked five times in the past.

Before yesterday’s fatal shooting, Bitik and Zunino had been reporting in the city, which was liberated several months ago. Zunino was taken to a hospital in Odessa for treatment to the gunshot wound to his shoulder that he received in the same shooting despite wearing a bulletproof vest with the word PRESS.

When Bitik and Zunino were shot, they were on the Ukrainian side of the sadly famous Antonivsky bridge, which crosses the Dnipro River near Kherson. Alerted by shouts from Ukrainian soldiers, they were getting ready to leave the area when Russian snipers began firing on them, although they were clearly identified.

“Bohdan was [...] still with his chest towards the Russian side,” Zunino told the Italian news agency Adnkronos, which managed to contact him. “At that moment I heard a hissing, a sensation that I can define as burning on my shoulder and I saw Bohdan collapsed to the ground.” His grief was “infinite,” he tweeted later.

Bitik left a wife and a son. Eight other journalists – three Ukrainians and five foreign journalists – were killed in connection with their work in Ukraine in 2002.

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