Paris: French news broadcaster ‘BFM TV’ said a 32-year-old journalist was killed Monday in eastern Ukraine. It said that the French journalist was fatally hit by shell shrapnel while covering a Ukrainian evacuation operation. ‘BFM TV’ said its journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed as he was ‘covering a humanitarian operation in an armoured vehicle’ near Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas region that is being hotly contested by Russian and Ukrainian forces. He had worked for six years for the French television channel.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Leclerc-Imhoff on Twitter. “He was in Ukraine to show the reality of the war. Aboard a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot,” Macron tweeted.
Macron expressed condolences to Leclerc-Imhoff’s family, relatives and colleagues. He spoke of ‘France’s unconditional support’ to ‘those who carry out the difficult mission of informing in theaters of operations’.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called the Leclerc-Imhoff’s death ‘deeply shocking’. “France demands that a transparent inquiry be launched as soon as possible to shed full light on the circumstances of this tragedy,” Colonna said.
Earlier Monday, the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, announced Leclerc-Imhoff’s death in a Telegram post. He said that Russian forces fired on an armoured vehicle that was travelling to pick up people for evacuation.
“Shrapnel from the shells pierced the vehicle’s armour, fatally wounding an accredited French journalist in the neck who was reporting on the evacuation. The patrol officer was saved by his helmet,” Haidai wrote. As a result of the attack, the evacuation was called off, he added.
Haidai posted an image of Leclerc-Imhoff’s Ukrainian press accreditation, and images of what he said were the aftermath of the attack.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Gerashchenko said another French journalist was wounded along with a Ukrainian woman who was accompanying them. He said Leclerc-Imhoff’s body was evacuated to the nearby Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, from where it will be taken to the central city of Dnipro for an autopsy. He said the patrol officer accompanying the vehicle was hit by shrapnel in the head and taken to a military hospital.