Russian journalist and media worker killed in eastern Ukraine

New York, June 17, 2014–A Russian journalist and a media worker died from injuries they sustained in mortar fire in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk today, according to Russian and international media reports. Igor Kornelyuk, correspondent for the state-owned broadcaster VGTRK, and Anton Voloshin, a sound engineer, were reporting on the deadly clashes between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia separatists, reports said.

In a statement, VGTRK said Kornelyuk, Voloshin, and cameraman Viktor Denisov were reporting from the village of Metallist, outside Lugansk, when they were caught in mortar fire. Kornelyuk suffered multiple wounds and was taken to a local hospital, where he died. VGTRK first reported Voloshin missing, but later confirmed that he was killed in the attack. Denisov was not hurt, the reports said.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko today called for a thorough investigation of the incident.

“We condemn the killings of Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin and again call on all sides in the conflict in eastern Ukraine to allow the media to report safely,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Eastern Ukraine has become one of the world’s most dangerous assignments for journalists, with threats extending from combat and crossfire to deliberate obstruction, harassment, kidnapping and even murder.”

At least two other journalists and one media worker have been killed covering the crisis. On May 24, Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter and fixer, Andrei Mironov, were killed in mortar fire outside the eastern city of Sloviansk, according to regional and international press reports. Three months earlier, on February 19, Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy died at a Kiev hospital after protesters in the street beat him with baseball bats and shot him in the chest.

In a separate case today, Aleksandr Peremot, a journalist for the regional news website Ura-Inform.Donbass, is being held by separatists in the eastern city of Donetsk, the website reported. The Ukrainian online agency UNIAN reported that Peremot was detained after he started photographing a building in Donetsk, the office of the regional prosecutor, which separatists have occupied.

Also, over the weekend, Ukrainian authorities detained for two days two Russian journalists with broadcaster Zvezda, which is affiliated with the Russian defense ministry, reports said. Evgeny Davydov and Nikita Konashenkov were headed to the airport to fly to Moscow after covering events in eastern Ukraine when they were detained. They were released on Monday.

On Friday, pro-Russia separatists in the eastern city of Donetsk issued written orders to local Internet service providers demanding the release of their users’ personal data, local press reported. The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic said the orders, which were published by the local press, were aimed at curbing “mass dissemination of false information, propaganda of radical nationalism, and incitement to social hatred.” Separatists said that non-compliance with the order would lead to the providers’ equipment being confiscated. It was not immediately clear if Internet service providers complied with the order.

In recent months, the climate for press freedom in Ukraine has deteriorated, with violent attacks against local and international reporters, confiscation of their reporting equipment, and obstruction of television transmissions from both sides, according to CPJ research and reports by the Kiev-based press freedom group Institute of Mass Information.