Ihor Hudenko, a freelance photojournalist and documentarian, died on February 26, 2022, in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, according to his colleague, journalist Oleg Peregon, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app after learning of Hudenko’s death on May 20. Ukrainian Kharkiv-focused news site VGorode also reported on the death, citing a Facebook post by Svetlana Shkurat, who identified herself as Hudenko’s friend.
On February 24, shortly after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hudenko posted original photos and video of abandoned Russian tanks on his personal Facebook page. On February 26, Hudenko took his camera and went on his bike to film the situation near the frontline when friends and colleagues lost contact with the journalist and reported him missing, as CPJ documented.
Kharkiv and the surrounding region have been the site of intense fighting since late February, when Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, according to news reports. CPJ has not been able to establish the cause of Hudenko’s death.
Initial efforts to find Hudenko included an appeal to Kharkiv law enforcement, but were fruitless, Peregon told CPJ, adding that he along with activists at local environmental organization Green Front, reached out to the city’s emergency medical service to check for any incidents on or after February 26. Hudenko and Peregon both covered Green Front’s activities and protests and Hudenko took photos and videos of the group and posted them on Green Front’s YouTube channel.
On May 20, they learned from the emergency medical service that Hudenko’s body was found on February 26, hours after his death, on Kharkiv’s Natalia Uzhviy street, Peregon said. He also said paramedics told him Hudenko had his press card, ID, keys, wallet with 849 hryvnias (US$28.70), and bike. His camera and phone were missing. Peregon told CPJ it was unlikely that Hudenko was killed for his equipment, as it would have taken someone with expertise to understand the value.
Peregon told CPJ that he and Hudenko covered environmental issues in Kharkiv, and Hudenko worked at local TV broadcaster Glavnoe until 2016. Since then, Hudenko made documentary films, including on the 2014 anti-government protests, and covered events and protests held by Green Front, Peregon said.
Peregon said the authorities could only reveal information about the cause of death to family members. Hudenko did not have any family members who lived in Kharkiv, and, as of May 31, 2022, his sister is planning to travel to Kharkiv to meet with authorities.
CPJ’s email requests for comments to the Kharkiv city administration and defense ministries of Ukraine and Russia did not receive any reply.