Paris, April 13, 2022 — Ukrainian authorities should thoroughly investigate the deaths of journalists Roman Nezhyborets and Zoreslav Zamoysky, determine if they were targeted for their work, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
Nezhyborets’ body was recently found buried in the northern Ukrainian village of Yahidne, and Zamoysky’s body was found in Bucha, a city near the capital of Kyiv. Their bodies were found by local Ukrainians after Russian forces withdrew from those areas.
“We are profoundly saddened by the deaths of journalists Roman Nezhyborets and Zoreslav Zamoysky in Ukraine, and call on Ukrainian authorities to promptly investigate and determine whether they were killed in retaliation for their work,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Russian and Ukrainian authorities have the responsibility to ensure that members of the press can work safely in the context of war.”
Russian soldiers occupied Yahidne on March 5, forced residents into underground shelters, and confiscated their cellphones, according to Tatyana Zdor, director of the TV broadcaster Dytynets in the nearby city of Chernihiv, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Nezhyborets, a video technician at Dytynets who was sheltered with his family in Yahidne, attempted to use a hidden phone to hide evidence of his work with Dytynets, and called his mother to ask that she notify his friends and colleagues that he should be removed from group chats, including one for Dytynets workers, Zdor said. She told CPJ that Russian forces caught Nezhyborets calling his mother on March 5, and took him away from his family.
On April 6, after Russian forces withdrew from the city, Ukrainian volunteers found Nezhyborets’ body in a grave in Yahidne, with gunshot wounds to his knees and his hands tied, according to Zdor, Dytynets, and a Facebook post by Nezhyborets’ sister Yulya Tsymbal. In a statement, Dytynets said the journalist was killed by “Russian occupiers.”
Zdor told CPJ that Nezhyborets left Chernihiv for Yahidne with his family on February 24, and that the journalist’s family believed he was killed sometime between March 5 and March 9.
Zdor told CPJ Nezhyborets worked as a video editor for Dytynets until the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Dytynets is a privately owned TV broadcaster that has covered the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In Zamoysky’s case, local residents in Bucha found his body on a street in the city in early April, according to statements by the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists (NUJU) and the Irpin city council. Those sources did not state the exact date his body was found.
Iryna Fedorov, founder of the news website Hromada Priirpinnya, told the NUJU that Zamoysky covered the activities of local authorities in the region around Bucha and the city of Irpin as a freelancer for his outlet and other local media groups. The NUJU statement also said that Zamoysky worked as an activist, but did not describe the nature of his activism.
Zamoysky regularly covered the war on his personal Facebook page, where he had about 1,000 followers. His last post was published on March 4.
Russian forces occupied Bucha from February 27 to March 31, according to reports. On April 12, the head of the Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, announced that Russian forces killed more than 400 civilians during their occupation of the city.
Separately, on Monday, April 11, Iryna Kuksenkova, a correspondent for the Russian state broadcaster Channel One, was injured by shrapnel while reporting in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to statements by her employer and the Russian Investigative Committee.
Kuksenkova sustained injuries to her leg after coming under “enemy” fire, according to those sources, which said camera operator Dmitry Kachurin and sound engineer Nikita Sevastyanov were with her at the scene and escaped unharmed.
Russian Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin alleged that the reporting team was attacked by “members of Ukrainian nationalist formations” and said the committee would investigate the attack. CPJ was unable to independently verify the source of the fire.
Channel One’s reporters have embedded with Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine, and the outlet’s coverage supports the Russian government. CPJ emailed Channel One for comment but did not receive any reply.
CPJ also emailed the Chernihiv regional government, the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Kyiv Regional State Administration, and the Irpin city council for comment, but did not receive any replies.
[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its eighth paragraph to accurate reflect the nature of Nezhyborets’s work.]