New York, March 2, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists to ensure the safety of journalists covering the conflict in east Ukraine after photographer Serhiy Nikolayev was reported to have been killed by shelling on Saturday.
The Ukrainian photographer, who worked for Kiev-based daily Segodnya, was covering fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists when he was killed in the crossfire in the village of Peski, northeast of the major rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, the news agency Reuters reported. Both sides blamed the other for the death, according to news reports.
"We call on all parties involved in the conflict in east Ukraine to do their utmost to protect the safety of journalists whose vital role is to report the news to the rest of the world," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We are deeply saddened by the killing of Serhiy Nikolayev."
Nikolayev had been on assignment with his colleague Bogdan Rossinsky when what appeared to be a mortar shell exploded, according to Segodnya. Rossinsky escaped without serious injury, but Nikolayev later died in hospital, the paper reported.
Despite a ceasefire that began on February 15, fighting in east Ukraine has continued, according to news reports. Government troops and pro-Russia rebels had started removing heavy weapons from the front line but clashes around key areas, such as Donetsk airport, have continued, according to news agency Agence France-Presse.
Nikolayev had worked for Segodnya since April 2008, covering conflict and unrest in Iran, Somalia, and Libya, according to a tribute published by his paper. In 2013, he held an exhibition of his work, focusing on the impact of war on children, titled "A childhood not for children."
In a statement, Segodnya editor-in-chief Olga Guk described the 43-year-old photographer as "a genius of reportage." Guk added: "He would go with his camera into the fire so that he could show life as it happened. He did not spare himself. He was the bravest of professionals."
At least six journalists and two media workers have been killed in Ukraine since 2014, most of them covering the conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to CPJ research. In 2014, CPJ documented frequent press freedom violations including attacks, the detention and abduction of journalists, and the blocking of broadcasts.