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Russian Strike on Kyiv TV Tower Kills Journalist


Police officers remove the body of a person killed in a March 1, 2022, airstrike that hit Kyiv's main television tower, March 2, 2022.
Police officers remove the body of a person killed in a March 1, 2022, airstrike that hit Kyiv's main television tower, March 2, 2022.

A Ukrainian camera operator killed in Russia's airstrike on a Kyiv TV tower is the first confirmed media fatality of the war.

Yevhenii Sakun, who worked for LIVE TV, was killed along with four others in Tuesday's strike, Ukrainian police confirmed Wednesday.

Ukrainian journalists and foreign correspondents covering the war paid tribute to Sakun on social media.

The international community, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB), condemned the strike.

"Broadcasting must not be attacked and illegitimately obstructed as it is vital to inform people about the situation in their country," Teresa Ribeiro, the OSCE media freedom representative, said on Twitter.

AIB Chief Executive Simon Spanswick told VOA the strike "appears to be an attempt to prevent Ukrainian citizens — men, women and children — having access to critical news and information at a time when their lives are in mortal danger."

Ukrainian Cameraman Killed in Russian Shelling of TV Tower in Kyiv
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Two rockets hit the tower and an area close to the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial at 6 p.m. local time Tuesday and temporarily took several stations off air.

The Kyiv Independent reported that eight channels resumed broadcasting about two hours after the attack.

Ukraine’s foreign minister described the strike near Babyn Yar as “barbaric,” the Reuters news agency reported.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has denied allegations of war crimes, telling reporters, "Russian troops don't conduct any strikes against civilian infrastructure and residential areas." However, extensive damage to residential buildings and other civilian structures has been documented by media including the Associated Press.

Media safety

The safety of media and free flow of news must be protected during the conflict, media watchdogs say.

"It is essential that media organizations in Ukraine are able to report on the situation," Spanswick told VOA in an email. "The AIB calls on Russia to guarantee the safety and security of all journalists and colleagues in media organizations in Ukraine."

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders estimates around 1,000 foreign correspondents traveled to Ukraine to cover the war.

Two journalists working for the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet were evacuated this week after being fired on while on assignment.

Reporter Stefan Weichert and photojournalist Emil Filtenborg Mikkelsen, who have worked in Ukraine for two years, were injured when their vehicle was shot at on Saturday.

At the time, the journalists were traveling to the city of Okhtyrka to investigate a bombing.

Weichert was shot in the shoulder and Filtenborg in the legs, Weichert said on Twitter after the attack.

It is not clear who fired on the news crew.

Warning that the injuries could have been fatal, RSF's Jeanne Cavelier called on all sides to "undertake to respect the security of journalists, who have an essential role to play in continuing to report the situation in the field."

Separately, Poland on Monday detained Pablo González, a Spanish freelancer covering the exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the war. He filed some stories for VOA in 2020 and 2021.

Around 874,000 people have fled Ukraine, the AP reported.

"I've rarely seen such an incredibly fast-rising exodus of people," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the Security Council on Monday.

González, who contributes to Spain's Público newspaper, was arrested and questioned in the Polish town of Rzeszów.

Ukrainian security previously detained González for several hours in Kyiv in early February. Ukraine at the time said González was reporting from military zones in Donbas without the necessary accreditation, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"Authorities should ensure that reporters can cover refugee movements and other vital stories of public interest without fear of prosecution, detention, or harassment," CPJ's Europe representative, Attila Mong, said in a statement.

Russia has detained several journalists over their coverage of anti-war protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The State's Duma is also proposing a bill imposing heavy penalties for sharing information that "distorts the purpose, role and tasks" of Russian armed forces.

Those convicted could face up to 15 years in prison, the Vienna-based International Press Institute reported.

"It is not hard to see how this law could immediately lead to the criminalization of journalists reporting on military losses, on the human rights abuses and potential war crimes," the IPI deputy director, Scott Griffen, said in a statement.

If passed, the law would add to the already challenging environment for Russia's independent media, Griffen said.

The Russian media regulator has already issued warnings to several outlets over their coverage of the war, and on Tuesday took two stations off air.

Editor's note: The seventh and ninth paragraphs have been updated to clarify that the rocket strikes did not directly hit the Holocaust memorial. This article has been further updated to note that González filed a few reports for VOA in 2020 and 2021.