Mantas Kvedaravičius

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Documentary filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius was killed in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, according to news reports, social media posts by his friends and colleagues, and a statement by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.

Kvedaravičius’ death was made public on April 2, 2022.

The defense ministry’s statement alleged that Russian forces had killed the director as he tried to leave the besieged city.

Albina Lvutina, a journalist and Kvedaravičius’ friend, wrote in multiple posts on Facebook that initial information about the journalist’s death was incorrect. She alleged that Russian soldiers had shot and killed Kvedaravičius prior to April 2, and that the journalist’s family had moved his body to Lithuania. Lvutina told CPJ that she got the information from “the person who was with Mantas,” but did not specify who that person was.  

On April 9, Ukrainian Ombudsman Ludmila Denisova wrote on her Telegram channel that Russian forces had taken Kvedaravičius prisoner and then shot and executed him.

In her post, Denisova wrote that his wife repatriated Kvedaravičius’ body to Lithuania, and that this information was initially withheld out of concern for his wife’s safety. Lvutina told CPJ that Denisova’s information came from the Facebook posts she had written.

Denisova did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

CPJ was not able to independently confirm the circumstances of Kvedaravičius’ death.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces repeatedly harassed people attempting to flee Mariupol, where at least 5,000 civilians had been killed as of April 2022, according to news reports. The Lithuanian prosecutor’s office said that it planned to investigate Kvedaravičius’ killing as part of a larger investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, according to news reports.

Director Vitaliy Manski wrote on Facebook that Kvedaravičius was killed “with a camera in his hand.” According to Reuters, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda issued a statement saying that Kvedaravičius “until the very last moment, in spite of danger, worked in Russia-occupied Ukraine.”

Kvedaravičius’ documentary film “Mariupolis,” about the Ukrainian city, was shown at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival, and sought to portray “the course of life during wartime — how regular people carry on with their everyday lives mere steps away from a war zone, gunshots, explosions and death,” Kvedaravičius told the Odessa Review.

Kvedaravičius gained international attention for his 2011 film “Barzakh,” which covered a man’s disappearance in Chechnya, and was awarded the Amnesty International Film Prize.

CPJ emailed the Russian and Ukrainian Ministries of Defense but did not receive any replies.