Journalists at war — Monitoring Russian occupants’ crimes against independent media (updating)

Rodina Iryna
Rodina Iryna
Communication manager
Journalists at war — Monitoring Russian occupants’ crimes against independent media (updating)

As the Russian regime continues to persecute independent journalists throughout its country, writers, reporters and photographers have become a central target for the Kremlin in its war against Ukraine. Russian troops have bombarded Ukrainian cell towers, shelled vehicles emblazoned with PRESS signage, and murdered , wounded and robbed members of the media. The actions described here demonstrate a flagrant disregard for fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, and basic human decency. In this report, PEN Ukraine will provide rolling updates, on a weekly basis, of all crimes perpetrated by the Russian invaders against representatives of independent Ukrainian and international media.

16 – 22 May 2022

On May 20, the body of a Kharkiv photographer, video blogger and activist Igor Gudenko was found near the North Saltivka area, where intense fighting has been taking place. On February 25, the journalist posted a video of the destroyed Russian military equipment, and the next day stopped communicating. Relatives and friends tried to locate him, but to no avail. Igor Gudenko co-authored the documentary "Hero of Ukraine Yevhen Kotlyar", recorded shootings of the Heavenly Hundred in the center of Kyiv on video and was an active participant of the Kharkiv's Green Movement.

On May 18, the information about the death of the cameraman of the Lutsk TV channel Avers Kostiantyn Kits was released. A veteran of the ATO, he returned to the frontline when the full-scale Russian invasion started. On May 17, in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, the Russians bombed a building where Kostiantyn was staying, along with other servicemen. He was found under the rubble, but later passed away in the hospital.

On the same day, the ICTV channel's crew (Tetyana Nakonechna, Yevhen Turta and Oleg Tsymbalyuk) came under artillery fire from the occupiers in Kostiantynivka in the Donetsk region. Fortunately, no one was injured.

On May 16, the occupiers kidnapped the engineer of Suspilne. Kherson Oleksiy Vorontsov. The public broadcaster appealed to the Ukrainian authorities and the international community to help return Vorontsov from captivity. On May 21, it became known that the occupiers had released him. Oleksiy Vorontsov is alive, he is staying at home.

9 – 15 May 2022

On May 15, the film crew of the online media Zaborona (Mykola Dondyuk, Vira Myronova, and Ivan Chernichkin) came under the occupiers' fire in the village of Cherkaski Tyshky in the Kharkiv region. The journalists were not injured.

On May 12, the TSN film crew (Oleksandr Zagorodny, Ivan Holovach, Vitaliy Ovsyannikov) came under shelling with cluster bombs in Marinka. They managed to record the crimes of the occupiers and escaped the shelling unharmed.

The same day, Estonian ERR correspondents Anton Aleksejev and Kristjan Svirgsden, Estonian Postimees journalists Janus Piirsalu and Dmitry Kotyukh, and German Welt correspondent Alfred Hackensberger came under the Russian fire near the city of Siversk, Detector Media reports. Fortunately, none of the crews were injured.

On May 10, information was released about the death of a journalist and blogger Oksana Gaidar. Together with her mother, she was in the village of Shevchenkove, Brovary district. Both women died as a result of the Russian artillery shelling of the village. Oksana Gaidar worked under the pseudonym "Ruda Pani". She wrote mainly on historical topics.

On May 9, Natalia Moseychuk, a correspondent for the 1 + 1 TV channel, was attacked in Treptow Park in Berlin. The crew was filming a story about the commemoration of those killed in World War II. In particular, they captured on video Russian-speaking people who came to the memorial with symbols banned in Germany: the Georgian ribbons and red flags. One of them tried to inflict bodily harm on Moseychuk. Police detained the attacker. The Ukrainian embassy in Germany calls on the Berlin police to "immediately take all necessary measures to investigate the attack on the media as soon as possible and bring the perpetrators to justice."

2 – 8 May 2022

On May 4, Oleksandr Makhov, a journalist and a volunteer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was killed in battle near Izyum in Kharkiv Region. For many years, he worked for Ukraine and Ukraine 24 TV channels as a military correspondent and covered the war in Donbas. In October 2021, he started working for the Dom TV channel. Oleksandr Makhov was a war veteran. He returned to the front on the first day of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

On May 3, the Hromadske team (Nastya Stanko, Kolyan Pastyko and Viktor Andrushchenko) came under fire in Lyman, Donetsk region. They were filming the evacuation of civilians, and three Russian shells fell 200 meters from the scene.

25 April – 1 May 2022

On April 30, an ex-manager of Suspilne. Cherkasy Yevhen Starynets was killed in battle near Popasna. When Russia started the full-scale invasion, he voluntarily joined the ranks of the territorial defense, then was delpoyed to defend Ukraine against the occupiers in the Luhansk region. Yevhen Starynets worked as the manager of Suspilne. Cherkasy branch from 2017 to 2019.

On April 29, occupation authorities in Crimea detained civic journalist Iryna Danylovych. They searched her house in the village of Vladyslavivka near Feodosia, confiscated her phone and her laptop. According to Iryna’s relatives, the occupying authorities accuse the journalist of "ties with a foreign state." Danylovych was arrested for 10 days. Prior to her arrest, Iryna Danylovych worked as a nurse and ran several blog posts on various sites dedicated to the rights of health workers and health care issues in Crimea. She was active in social networks and appeared on Ukrainian television.

Vira Hyrych. Photo: Vira Hyrych’s Facebook page

On the same day, Radio Liberty producer Vira Hyrych was killed during the Russian shelling of Kyiv. The rocket hit Vira’s apartment in a high-rise building in the Shevchenkivskyi district of the capital. Her body was found under the rubble on the morning of April 29. Vira Hyrych became part of the Kyiv bureau of Radio Liberty on February 1, 2018. Prior to that, she worked for several leading Ukrainian TV channels in particular, Espresso and 1 + 1.

On April 28, Anastasia Volkova, a correspondent for the Dom TV channel, came under fire in Rubizhne, Luhansk Oblast. The crew was preparing to make a story about the evacuation of the local population when the Russian occupiers opened fire.

"As soon as we arrived, five minutes later, they started hitting the square where we were. We crawled into the palace of culture through the glass on our stomachs to survive the shelling. We heard that the building was hit on the left, on the right, in the front, and in the back. It was the heavy mortar we heard," the journalist told IMI.

She managed to leave for Severodonetsk when the occupiers ran out of ammunition and the shelling stopped briefly.

18 – 24 April 2022

On April 21, during the rocket attack on Mykolayiv, the Russian occupiers struck an infrastructure of the local branch of the public broadcaster. No one was killed or injured.

11 – 17 April 2022

On April 16, it became known that Russians are threatening the relatives of Novy Den journalist Oleh Baturyn. He wrote about this on his Facebook page:

"My relatives, who remained in the temporarily occupied territory, were threatened. They are receiving the ‘greetings’ from the Russian occupiers. My relatives are very scared. Russians demand that I stop my professional journalistic activity."

In March, Oleh Baturyn spent 8 days in captivity by the Russian occupiers.

On April 13, journalist Zoreslav Zamoysky was found dead in Bucha. He collaborated with Hromada Priirpinnia and Information Portal.

4 April – 10 April 2022

On April 4, a camera crew working for CNN came under fire near Mykolayiv. None of the team was injured, and they managed to escape in a car that had withstood shelling.

28 March – 3 April 2022

On the same day, in Nova Kakhovka, occupying Russian troops abducted local journalist and writer Oleksandr Hunko, editor of the online publication Nova Kakhovka City. Earlier, his apartment was raided after the website published a report on the forced dispersal of a pro-Ukrainian rally in the occupied city.

Photo: V. Skaraičio / lrytas.lt

On April 3, Lithuanian documentary filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius was killed in besieged Mariupol. In 2016, he directed the film Mariupolis, which focused on the war in Donbas. We recently wrote about the director in our reportage on cultural figures lost to the war.

On April 2, journalist Yevhen Bal died in Melekine, near Mariupol. He had been arbitrarily detained by Russian forces on March 18, when Yevhen’s house was searched, and he was subjected to torture. Severely beaten, he was released three days later. The death of Yevhen Bal is a direct consequence of the injuries inflicted by the Russian occupiers. Yevhen died six days short of his 79th birthday. Bal was the author of numerous reports about the war in Ukraine, a member of the National Union of Journalists, a writer, and a volunteer.

On April 1, photographer and documentary filmmaker Max Levin was found dead in the Kyiv Region. On March 13, accompanied by a serviceman, he embarked on Guta Mezhyhirska to film the aftermath of the Russian invasion. The two men left the car and headed towards the village of Moshchun. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, Russian soldiers shot the journalist twice of the back of the head, in an execution-style murder. Max Levin was buried on April 4 in Boyarka, Kyiv region.

Photo: Kostiantyn Ryzhenko’s Facebook page

On March 31, the journalist and volunteer Kostiantyn Ryzhenko went missing in the Kherson region, according to information the Institute of Mass Information obtained from an anonymous Telegram channel linked to Kherson’s law enforcement agencies. On the evening of that day, Ryzhenko’s Telegram channel published the following message:

"Hi. If you’re reading this text then something has happened to me. This is an emergency message, the publishing of which I have consciously postponed every one or two days. If it has been published, then I was not able to cancel it as usual. This news is not pleasant, but do not panic right away. There may be several reasons for this. 1. I’m stuck in a place where there has been no reception for a long time and I can’t get to the place where I will have it. 2. I may have lost my phone or broken it, so the enemy won’t get it."

In mid-March, Kostiantyn publicly stated that he was being hunted by occupying Russian troops. He has not been heard from since.

Photo: Dmytro Khyliuk’s Facebook page

On the 28th of March, it was reported that the UNIAN correspondent Dmytro Khyliuk had been detained by Russian forces. His colleagues believe that occupying troops abducted the journalist back in early March. He is currently held without charge at a facility in Dymer, Kyiv region.

21–27 March 2022

Photo: Oleksandr Navrotskyi’s Facebook page

On March 26, camera operator Oleksandr Navrotskyi was wounded while filming active combat. Navrotskyi came under intense shelling from a Russian Grad rocket battery in the Kyiv region. His colleagues reported that his legs are seriously injured, and that the cameraman will require extensive treatment.

Photo: Iryna Dubchenko’s Facebook page

The same day, it was reported that Zaporizhzhia journalist Iryna Dubchenko was abducted. Dubchenko reports for UNIAN, the website Depo.Zaporizhzhia, and the SubbotaPlus and Politsovet newspapers. She was taken to Donetsk, where Russian officials intended to "conduct an investigation", into Dubchenko allegedly "sheltering a wounded Ukrainian military member." The head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration said Russian occupiers plan to exchange Dubchenko for prisoners of war.

On March 26, the crew of British TV channel SkyNews, led by special correspondent Alex Crawford, was caught under heavy Russian artillery fire in the Chernihiv region. The attack was reported by Andriy Tsaplienko on his Telegram channel. Tsaplienko noted the attack on the Sky crew happened at the very same place where he himself had been wounded.

Photo: Andriy Tsaplienko’s Facebook page

On 25 March, the 1+1 TV channel journalist Andriy Tsaplienko was hit by shrapnel as he reported on his Facebook page. The 1+1 media statement said the journalist had been wounded during Russian shelling of a humanitarian corridor in the Chernihiv region. Correspondents for TRT World (Turkey) were present at the scene.

"There were many civilians and cars waiting for permission to get to Chernihiv to take their loved ones out of the city. Fifteen minutes after a drone recorded the crowd of people, they began to shell. At first they fired using the Smerch, then the 122-mm artillery, then they added mortar shells, and in the final stage used a tank. All this lasted no less than an hour and a half. There was also a crew of the English-language channel TRT World. Despite the fact that the colleagues are experienced war journalists, they were shocked to find themselves under such heavy artillery fire for the first time. Just like they were shocked by the cruelty of the Russian military towards civilians. Right now I’m on IV and in good hands. Doctors said the wound scored 5 points. That means everything will be alright. I’m very lucky," Tsaplienko’s comments on the incident.

Yuri Oliynyk. Photo: Evgeny Kraws, UNIAN

23 March, Lviv-based TV cameraman and photographer Yuri Oliynyk, 39, was killed in the Luhansk region. He last worked for the TV channel 24 and the ZAXID.NET website. Yuri Oliynyk was an ATO veteran. He returned to the frontline in the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Oksana Baulina. Photo: NV

Oksana Baulina, an investigative journalist with the Russian opposition media outlet The Insider, was killed during the bombardment of Kyiv on March 23. Oksana was forced to leave Russia after being branded an extremist. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, she has been reporting from Lviv and Kyiv. According to NV, The Insider is known for high-profile investigations in conjunction with Bellingcat and has attracted the status of "foreign agent" in Russia.

On March 23, Russian agents seized the father of Svitlana Zalizetska, director of the RIA-Melitopol website, and held him hostage in an attempt at blackmail.

"I regard such actions by the occupying forces of the Russian Federation as terrorism. When they took my old father hostage, they demanded we cooperate, under the threat of our site being shut down. The occupiers found documents – a Polish identity card – and began to ask my mother about our relatives in Poland. Earlier, Halyna Danylchenko had a "preventative" conversation with me. The next meeting was to be with the commandant. Its result was predictable, so I left the city," Zalizetska said on her Facebook page.

22 March, the Hromadske journalist Victoria Roshchyna was freed from detention on the condition she record a video in which the journalist renounced any objection to the occupation. Victoria plans to tell the full story of her detention in her own words soon. Upon release Victoria went to Zaporizhzhia to reunite with her family.

Max Levin. Photograph: Detector Media

On 22 March, in Kyiv region photojournalist Max Levin went missing. The last time he was heard from was on March 13, when he was near Vyshhorod.

‘On 13 March Levin took his car and drove to cover the unfolding combat. He left his vehicle by the village of Huta Mezhyhirska and walked in the direction of Moshchun. Max sent a message at 11:23, after which he became unreachable and was not seen online,’ says the statement.

"Every Ukrainian photographer dreams of taking a photo that will stop the war," The Left Bank quotes Levin.

On the night of March 21, in the Zaporizhia region, Russian troops broke into the house of Vitaliy Holod, editor of the district newspaper Nashe Misto Tokmak. They searched his belongings and stole his computer system unit. The editor himself was not home at the time.

On March 21, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released information about the abduction and torture of a Radio France fixer. According to RSF, the fixer was captured on March 5. Russian forces subjected him to various forms of torture: he was deliberately eletrocuted, severely beaten, and then tied to a tree. The fixer suffered numerous injuries of varying severity. He was released on March 13. Reporters Without Borders intends to pass his testimony to the International Criminal Court.

Mykhailo Kumok. Photo: Tetiana Kumok’s Facebook

On March 21, Ukrainian journalists in occupied Melitopol were abducted. Armed men broke into the homes of representatives of the local media company, including Yulia Olkhovska, Liubov Chaika, publisher Mykhailo Kumok, and the managing editor of Melitipolski Vidomosti, Yevhenia Borian. They were taken to an unknown location, and the website of the company was disabled by a cyberattack. Later it became known that Russian agents tried forcing the journalists to spread Kremlin propaganda. They were released after a "preventive talk". Detector Media recently reported all those involved are now accounted for.

On March 21, the occupiers raided the parents’ home of Kateryna Danylina-Levochko, a journalist with the Industrial Zaporizhia newspaper. The were seeking information about her and about Mykhailo Kumok, the owner of Melitopolski Vidomosti, where Kateryna was formerly employed.

14 – 20 March 2022

Oleh Baturyn. Photo: Olha Perepelytsia’s Facebook

On March 20, in the Kherson region, the previously abducted journalist Oleh Baturyn returned home. He posted about his experience on the Facebook page of his sister, Olha Perepelytsia. The journalist wrote about the torture and humiliation he endured at the hands of Russian troops:

"On 12 March they detained me at the bus station in Kakhovka, at 17.00 o’clock. Beaten. Humiliated. Threatened. Said they’d kill me.

Nearly 8 days. 187 hours of captivity. Almost without food. Several days almost without water. Without soap or a change of clothes. Without understanding where I was. But they knew perfectly why. They wanted to break me, trample me. To show what every journalist will face: you will be crushed. You’ll be killed… Nearly 8 days I was sitting with my head low and covered. They were afraid I might see their faces. But I, my dear sister, am not afraid of showing mine."

Victoria Roshchyna. Photo from Facebook

On the 15th/16th of March in occupied Berdiansk, the FSB detained the Hromadske journalist Victoria Roshchyna while she was covering the fighting in Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. There has been no word from her since the 12th of March. The newsroom tried to secure her release with back-channel negotiations, but were unsuccessful. Victoria’s whereabouts remain unknown.

On 15 March, in the Kyiv region, the media crews of several outlets — Current Time (including Borys Sachalko, his driver and a cameraman), Fakty ICTV (Oleh Korniienko and Artur Turovych), TSN 1+1 (Yulia Kyriienko and Volodymyr Rybachok) — came under attack.

Oleksandra Kuvshynova and Pierre Zakrzewski. Photo: Lucas Tomlinson

The same day, shelling killed the FoxNews cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova.

In a statement issued by FoxNews, Oleksandra was referred to as a "consultant" for the TV channel. Later, the director of the Institute of Mass Information Oksana Romaniuk said Kuvshynova was in fact a producer and core crew member. Romaniuk addressed international organizations, urging them to investigate the working conditions of Ukrainian journalists employed by Western outlets, including the terms of formal work contracts, and whether they are provided insurance in case of death or injury.

Benjamin Hall. Photo: USA Today

It was reported that together with Zakrzewski and Kuvshynova there had been one more FoxNews correspondent, Benjamin Hall. He survived with fractures in both legs. Hall was treated in intensive care, and on 16 March was successfully evacuated from the country.

14 March, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova wrote on her Facebook page that in the Russian-occupied city of Berdiansk, journalists are being persecuted and intimidated. Russian agents have traced the addresses of journalists and their family members, and are using threats to force them to disseminate Kremlin propaganda. The number of abductions continue to rise.

"The occupation forces are trying to introduce Russia’s regime of homegrown intimidation to deprive captured cities of their freedom," said Denisova.

 

7 – 13 March 2022

Journalist Brent Renaud

On March 13, in Irpin, Russian forces killed 51-year-old journalist Brent Renaud, Kyiv region Police Chief Andriy Niebytov reported.

Together with his colleague, 46-year-old journalist Juan Diego Herrera Arredondo, Brent was covering the evacuation of residents from besieged Irpin. As his car crossed a checkpoint, Russian troops suddenly opened fire, riddling their car with bullets. Juan was wounded in the leg, and was operated on by staff at the Okhmatdyt hospital. Arredondo witnessed Brent receive injuries to his neck.

Photo: Anastasia Maherramova

"Occupants are cynically killing even journalists of international media who are attempting to show the truth of the brutality of the Russian invasion… Another journalist has been wounded. Presently, the survivor is being extracted from the combat zone. Of course, the profession of a journalist is high risk, and US citizen Brent Renaud paid with his life for trying to highlight the aggressor’s cruelty and ruthlessness," said Andriy Niebytov.

Earlier it had been reported that Brent Renaud was a correspondent for the American newspaper, The New York Times. However, the newspaper refuted this. NYT Communications said Brent Renaud had not been on assignment in Ukraine, and his press badge, the photo of which is being shared on the internet, had been issued for another assignment many years ago.

Oleh Baturyn. Photo: Radio Liberty

On 12 March, in Kakhovka, New Day journalist Oleh Baturyn was reported missing. An acquaintance had called him and asked to meet. Baturyn left home at around 16:30, without his phone or identity documents, and did not return. Oleh’s wife, Natalia Baturyna, says her husband remains held incommunicado and requires emergency care for a specific eye treatment. A number of members of the European parliament and media organisations have called for Oleh Baturyn’s release.

The same day, communication was lost with Nova Kakhovka journalist Sergiy Tsygipa. He left his home at 9am, and, accompanied by his dog, went to Tavriysk. Since then, there has been no word from him. Sergiy Tsygipa had been organising a spirited defence of his town from an onslaught of Kremlin propaganda since February 24.

The same day, the Kherson journalist Iryna Staroselets reported threats she had been receiving. "Russians call me and threaten me. They say my name and explain what they will do with me," said the journalist. Iryna Staroselets is a staff correspondent at Ukrinform, based in the Kherson region. She is active in covering events on the territories currently occupied by Russian forces.

Marian Kushnir. Screenshot by Radio Liberty

On March 11, in the Kyiv region, Radio Liberty correspondent Marian Kushnir was injured in an airstrike on Baryshivka. The journalist suffered acoustic barotrauma and concussion. Kushnir has worked at Radio Liberty since 2015.

On 8 March, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov publicly disclosed that Russian gunmen were holding two British journalists hostage in the town of Stoianka-2.

Guilleam Briquet. Photograph: Reporters Without Borders

In the night of 7 March, Russian gunmen attacked the independent Swiss reporter Guillaume Briquet. He was wounded when his vehicle was suddenly fired upon without warning. When his car stopped, Russian gunmen took away his passport, 3,000 EUR in cash, his laptop and all material the journalist had gathered. Guillaume Briquet was provided medical aid at the hospital in Kropyvnytskyi.

1 – 6 March 2022

On March 6, the renowned Lviv-based investigative journalist Victor Dudar died defending Mykolaiv in battle. Over 2014–2015, Victor fought in various hotspots in Donbas. Later he became a reservist and returned to Lviv where he worked for the Express Newspaper. There he conducted investigations and covered military affairs. Dudar went to the frontline in the first days of Russia’s invasion.

1 March, Yevhen Sakun, a camera operator working for LIVE TV, died in a Russian missile strike near the Babyn Yar memorial. He was one of the five civilians whose life was taken in the attack on the TV tower at Dorohozhychi Metro Station that day.

24–28 February 2022

On 28 February, the chief correspondent of UK’s Sky News, Stuart Ramsay, came under fire near Kyiv. He recalled that the crew heard sounds of an explosion. When they stopped their car, Russian troops suddenly opened fire. Ramsay was shot in the back. His cameraman survived two bullets thanks to the body armour he wore. Ramsay has since returned to the UK.

Photo: Ukrainska Pravda

On February 26, in the Kherson region, Shakirov Dilierbek Shukurovych was shot. He was both a journalist, contributing to the weekly Navkolo Tebe, and a member of the Dim Nadii charitable foundation. He was shot with an automatic weapon near the village of Zelenivka.

The same day, journalist Stefan Weicher and photographer Emil Filtenborg came under fire in Okhtyrka, in the Sumy region. Their vehicle, clearly marked with "TV" signage, was shelled by a man without insignia. Weicher was wounded in the shoulder; his colleague was shot in both of his legs and twice in the back. The attackers were never found.

Author: Iryna Rodina

Translation: Oksana Wasikowska

Editing: Joel Keep

Rodina Iryna
Author - Rodina Iryna
Матеріал підготувала Ірина Родіна.
Support our work

We need your help to create projects and materials aimed to defend freedom of speech, popularize Ukrainian culture and values of independent journalism.

Your donation means support for discussions, awards, festivals, authors’ trips to regions and PEN book publications.

Support PEN

We recommend viewing: