In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, firefighters work to extinguish a fire after a Russia's missile attack that hit a hotel in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on January 10. (Photo: AP/Ukrainian Emergency Service)

Targeting suspected in Ukraine hotel shelling that injured at least 2 journalists

New York, January 12, 2024 —The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday called on Russia to stop targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, after a missile strike on a hotel injured at least two journalists reporting on the war.

On Wednesday evening, Russian forces shelled Park Hotel in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, injuring Violetta-Anastasia Pedorich, a Ukrainian freelance producer working with the French public broadcaster France Télévisions, and Davit Kachkachishvili, a reporter with the Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency, Pedorich and Etienne Leenhardt, France Télévisions’ head of investigations and special reports, told CPJ.

At least 13 people were injured in the strike but others escaped unharmed—including Anadolu Agency photojournalist Özge Elif Kızıl, France Télévisions reporter Anaïs Hanquet, and camera operator Valérie Lucas, while Anadolu Agency’s car was destroyed, those sources said.  

Pedorich told CPJ that her face and hands were hit by pieces of glass, while Kachkachishvili had minor cuts on his hands, according to the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and the local press freedom group Institute of Mass Information (IMI). Neither was seriously injured. 

“CPJ is very concerned about Russia’s latest missile attack in Ukraine that targeted a hotel housing journalists. Media are instrumental in informing the world about the war, and journalists are civilians under international humanitarian law and should never be considered combatants,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian and Ukrainian authorities should investigate the attack that injured journalists Violetta-Anastasia Pedorich and Davit Kachkachishvili, and Russia must stop targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, including facilities that house journalists.”

A photo taken just after the strike on the hotel in Kharkiv on January 10 shows injuries suffered by Ukranian freelance producer Violetta-Anastasia Pedorich (Photo: Violetta-Anastasia Pedorich)

On Friday, Pedorich told CPJ that she had returned to the capital, Kyiv, and still had “a bit of tremors” when she moved, some nausea, and headaches, but she was feeling ok “overall” and would undergo a medical check-up on Saturday.

Pedorich told CPJ that on the morning of the attack, her team was reporting on the frontline with artillery soldiers in the direction of the eastern city of Avdiivka, which she finds now “very ironic.”

“The attack happened five minutes after (the France Télévisions team) arrived, and luckily enough, because Valérie (Lucas) and Anaïs (Hanquet) were still in the corridor, looking for their rooms, and I just had the time to enter the room,” said Pedorich, who has been covering the war for almost two years for multiple foreign media outlets. 

“We were really scared … we felt that the second bombardment had hit the hotel directly. We still can’t quite grasp what happened,” Hanquet told France 2.

The Russian Defense Ministry gave no official comment on the January 10 strike. 

“Soldiers have never stayed in this hotel,” IMI quoted Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov as saying. “This hotel was used by journalists. It was a well-known fact … This leads me to believe that the Russian Federation was targeting the mass media specifically.”

Russia has previously attacked hotels and restaurants in Ukraine known to be frequented by journalists. On December 30, a Russian missile hit another hotel in Kharkiv that was housing dozens of journalists, injuring three.

“On a Telegram channel, a Russian army officer claims that this facility was housing mercenaries. The members of our team are well and truly journalists,” France 2 said in its report about the strike.

CPJ’s emails to the Russian and Ukrainian Defense Ministries did not receive any replies.

At least 15 journalists have been killed while working in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, while many others have been injured, detained, or threatened.