Paris, April 27, 2023—Russian and Ukrainian authorities should swiftly investigate the recent attack that killed Ukrainian producer Bohdan Bitik and injured Italian correspondent Corrado Zunino, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Wednesday, April 26, snipers opened fire on Bitik, a Ukrainian producer with the Italian daily La Repubblica, and Zunino, an Italian correspondent with the outlet, while they reported near the frontline Ukrainian city of Kherson, according to multiple news reports, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office, and interviews Zunino gave to his employer and the Italian news agency Adnkronos.
“I heard a hiss and I saw Bohdan on the ground, he was not moving,” Zunino told his employer. La Repubblica reported that the journalists were attacked “most likely by Russian snipers.” CPJ was unable to independently determine the source of the fire.
Bitik was killed at the scene; Zunino was shot in the shoulder and was treated in hospitals in Kherson and Odesa, according to his outlet and a Twitter post by the journalist. In the post, Zunino said he was wearing a jacket with “Press” written on it.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Ukrainian producer Bohdan Bitik and wish Italian reporter Corrado Zunino a speedy recovery,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Russian and Ukrainian authorities must swiftly investigate this tragic attack and ensure that journalists are not targeted while reporting on the war in Ukraine. Members of the press are civilians under international humanitarian law and should be protected as such.”
“I crawled out of the line of fire. I ran until I came across a civilian car,” Zunino told La Repubblica. He told Adnkronos he had other minor injuries “due to a fall while running away.”
Bitik and Zunino were reporting from the Antonivskiy Most bridge when they were attacked, Zunino told La Repubblica, saying they were not in a “fighting zone.”
Oksana Romanyuk, the head of the Institute of Mass Information, a local press freedom group, told CPJ by phone that Bitik had been working as a producer with several Italian media outlets, including the public broadcaster Rai, and that he had been accompanying Italian journalists on reporting trips. Zunino told Adnkronos that Bitik had joined him on five reporting trips.
The Kherson branch of the prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday the launch of an investigation into the attack under Part 2 of Article 438 of the Ukrainian criminal code, which pertains to the “violation of the laws and customs of war.”
Bitik is at least the 14th journalist killed in Ukraine while reporting on Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to CPJ’s data. CPJ is looking into the circumstances of the deaths of two other journalists who have died during the conflict.
CPJ emailed the Russian and Ukrainian ministries of defense for comment, as well as the Kherson Regional Military Administration, but did not receive any replies.