New York, June 3, 2022 – In response to reports about the Friday incident that killed a driver and injured two Reuters correspondents after the vehicle they were traveling in came under fire near the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“We are saddened by the death of a driver and call on all warring parties to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers who must be protected under the humanitarian law as civilians,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Both Ukrainian and Russian authorities should conduct a swift investigation into the incident and hold those responsible to account. Journalists should be able to cover the conflict safely.”
Reuters reported that it could not immediately establish the identity of the driver, who was assigned to the reporters by Russian-backed separatists. The two Reuters correspondents sitting in the back seat were named as photographer Aleksandr Ermochenko and cameraman Pavel Klimov. The three were travelling in a car provided by Russia-backed forces on the Russian-held part of the road between Sievierodonetsk and the town of Rubizhne, 10 km (6 miles) to the north.
A Reuters spokesperson told CNN that the incident occurred “in the course of a reporting trip” and that the two Reuters journalists sustained minor injuries. The spokesperson said the vehicle came under fire while en route to Sievierodonetsk and that both the vehicle and the driver had been provided by the separatists.
Ermochenko and Klimov were taken to a hospital in Rubizhne where they received initial treatment, Ermochenko for a small shrapnel wound and Klimov for an arm fracture, Reuters said.
Russian state media outlets reported that two correspondents of the state-funded broadcaster RT were travelling on the same road following the Reuters vehicle and witnessed the incident. Those reports said that the vehicle carrying Reuters team came under artillery attack, turned upside down and caught fire. The unnamed driver was killed immediately, those reports said. The RT journalists were unharmed, those reports also said.
CPJ was not able to independently establish the source of fire.
At least nine journalists have been killed while covering the war since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine 100 days ago, according to CPJ’s research. CPJ is looking into the circumstances of the deaths of six other journalists who have died during the conflict in Ukraine.
Sievierodonetsk has been a scene of fierce battles in recent weeks. On May 30, French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed in the area, as CPJ has documented.