Stenin, 33, a photojournalist with Russian state-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya (previously RIA Novosti), was last heard from on August 5, 2014, when he was reporting on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including from the cities of Donetsk and Sloviansk, his newsroom reported.
Dmitry Steshin and Aleksandr Kots, journalists for the pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, went in search of Stenin and on August 22 published an article on their findings. The article, which was later removed from Komsomolskaya Pravda’swebsite but was available in Google cache, said the two journalists found a car, similar to the one in which Stenin was last seen, that had been burned and had three charred bodies inside with professional photo equipment in the trunk. The two reported that the car was found in a field near the town of Snizhne.
On September 3, Russian authorities and news outlets reported that Stenin had been killed in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine the day after he went missing.
In a statement released the same day, Russia’s Investigative Committee said Stenin was killed on August 6 during what they said was a Ukrainian army attack on a column of cars carrying refugees from the east and guarded by a group of pro-Russia separatists. The authorities did not support their allegations with any evidence, and did not say how they determined the source of fire or the date of Stenin’s death. The statement said DNA tests had confirmed that the body inside the car was Stenin’s. Investigators for the committee said separatists gave the photojournalist’s remains to Russian authorities on August 27.
The other two victims were not immediately identified.
The Investigative Committee and Rossiya Segodnya accused Ukrainian paratroopers with the 79th airborne brigade of killing Stenin during the alleged attack in August. Aleksandr Danilyuk, from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, denied the accusations, and told the BBC’s Russian service he had seen no evidence that proved Stenin was killed by Ukrainian soldiers.
Following the journalist’s disappearance, an official with Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, Anton Gerashchenko, suggested in an interview with the Latvian radio station Baltkom that Stenin might have been detained in the conflict area by Ukraine’s security services. Gerashchenko later retracted his statement, telling Rossiya Segodnya that his words had been taken out of context.
In a statement, reported by Rossiya Segodnya, Gerashchenko said on September 3 that Ukrainian authorities did not have access to the separatist-controlled region where Stenin was believed to have been killed, and so were unable to conduct an investigation. “We cannot conduct a probe without access to the body,” Gerashchenko said.