Journalists walk on a street, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the Ukrainian town of Balakliia, on September 13, 2022. In recent incidents, journalists suffered injuries while covering the war in Ukraine. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Journalists suffer injuries while covering the war in Ukraine

Paris, September 23, 2022—Ukrainian and Russian authorities must investigate whether journalists covering the war in Ukraine were targeted because of their work and take steps to ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Saturday, September 17, Alejandro Kirk, a reporter for Venezuela-based television network Telesur, was injured by Ukrainian shelling while reporting in the Russia-backed separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, according to media reports and a report by his outlet.

In a voice recording, Kirk said that he was with another journalist and a photographer at the scene, but did not specify whether they were injured. Kirk was transported to a hospital and treated for a shrapnel wound to the shoulder, those reports said. Telesur said the journalist’s condition was stable and that he was out of danger.

Donetsk’s separatist mayor Aleksey Kulemzin said that four people were killed in the shelling incident, media reported. CPJ was unable to independently verify the source of the fire and determine whether Kirk was targeted or wearing a press jacket. CPJ emailed Telesur but did not receive any reply.

“The cases of journalists injured while reporting in Ukraine are piling up and should remind the Russian and Ukrainian authorities that they should not consider them as parties to the conflict,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Journalists reporting in Ukraine are considered civilians under international law and should be protected as such.”

Other recent incidents include: 

  • On Thursday, September 15, when Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of firing along the frontline in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, an explosion in the area caused the crash of a car carrying a film crew from Russian broadcaster TV Centre near the frontline, according to media reports and multiple reports by the outlet.

The crew—which included reporter Nikita Vasiliev, an operator, and an assistant operator, who were not named in reports—was taken to a hospital, where Vasiliev was treated for spinal contusions, an ear injury, and scratches on the cheek; and the assistant operator and driver were treated for chest contusions, those reports said. The operator was not injured. 

“The driver abruptly took to the side, the car turned over, then I lost consciousness. Then I remember how they pulled me out of the car and I remember that the car was on fire,” Vasiliev told his outlet. He said the explosion on the road was probably caused by a drone. CPJ was unable to independently verify the source of the fire.

TV Centre’s reporters have embedded with Russia-backed separatist forces during the invasion of Ukraine, and the outlet’s coverage supports the Russian government. CPJ completed a contact form on TV Centre’s website but did not receive any reply.

  • On September 2, when Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of shelling the area of the northern village of Senkivka, Ukrainian news channel Fakty ICTV posted a video showing its camera crew escaping a shelling in the village, according to coverage by the outlet and a post by the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, a local trade group known as the NUJU.

A Russian drone that the crew believes targeted the outlet’s car dropped an explosive device on it, Fakty ICTV reported. A journalist, cameraman, and driver in the car were not injured, but shrapnel damaged the car’s door and broke the glass, those reports said. CPJ emailed Fakty ICTV for comment but did not receive any reply. CPJ was unable to independently verify the source of the fire.

  • On August 31, the building housing a branch of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, as well as local media outlets and the city’s printing house, was shelled, the union reported. There were no casualties in the incident since no journalists or union members were present where the shelling occurred, the report said.
  • On August 11, Oleksiy Prodayvoda and Oleksandr Davydenko, a reporter and cameraman, respectively, with outlet Ukrainian Witness, came under fire while reporting on combat in the Donetsk region’s city of Avdiivka, according to multiple media reports, and a statement by the outlet. Neither they nor their Ukrainian military escort were injured.

Prodayvoda told his outlet that they were spotted by a drone as they were watching recently shelled buildings burning in the village. CPJ was unable to independently verify the source of the fire.

“We should mention that our camera crew is equipped in accordance with international requirements. With large ‘PRESS’ signs wherever possible. We have every reason to believe that those who fired were aware that they were shooting at journalists, since there are no military personnel in the area where the shooting took place,” the statement said. CPJ contacted Ukrainian Witness via messaging app but did not receive any reply. 

CPJ emailed the Russian and Ukrainian ministries of defense for comment on each of these incidents but did not receive any reply.