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France calls for investigation into death of journalist covering war in Ukraine

BMF TV journalist Leclerc-Imhoff was killed after an armored evacuation vehicle came under fire in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on Monday. Photo by BFM TV/EPA-EFE
BMF TV journalist Leclerc-Imhoff was killed after an armored evacuation vehicle came under fire in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on Monday. Photo by BFM TV/EPA-EFE

May 31 (UPI) -- France has called for an investigation into the death of journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff who died while covering the war in eastern Ukraine.

The 32-year-old journalist died Monday while reporting for France's BFM TV channel on a Ukrainian evacuation operation near Severodonetsk, a Kyiv-controlled city that has been under days of heavy Russian shelling as the Kremlin seeks to capture eastern Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast.

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Serhiy Haidai, the governor or Luhansk, wrote on his Telegram account that the evacuation operation was halted as the armored vehicle to be used to pick up 10 civilians came under under enemy fire.

Haidai wrote that shrapnel from Russian shells pierced the vehicle and that Leclerc-Imhoff sustained a fatal wound to his neck while a police officer was saved by their helmet.

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BFM TV said in a statement that the incident happened on the road to Lyssytchansk in Severodonetsk and that Lecler-Imhoff's colleague, Maxime Brandstaetter, suffered minor injuries in the attack and their fixer, Oksana Leuta, was unharmed.

"France demands that a transparent inquiry be launched as soon as possible to shed full light on the circumstances of this tragedy," foreign affairs minister Catherine Colonna said in a statement while calling Leclerc-Imhoff's death "deeply shocking."

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"I condemn it and extend our condolences to his family and colleagues," she said.

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Lecler-Imhoff died during Colonna's trip to Ukraine, and she said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assured her of his support in the matter.

"It is a double crime to target a humanitarian convoy and a journalist," she tweeted.

BFM TV said Leclerc-Imhoff, a camera operator and reporter, had worked for the company six years and it was his second mission to Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24.

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"The Altice media group and the editorial staff of BFM TV share the grief of his family and loved ones," it said. "This tragic event reminds us of the dangers faced by all journalists who have been telling at the risk of their lives about this conflict for more than three months now."

French President Emmanuel Macron also issued a statement expressing his condolences to Leclerc-Imhoff's friends, family and colleagues as well as offered France's "unconditional support" for conflict journalists.

Robert Mahoney, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, similarly called on both Ukrainian and Russian authorities to investigate the circumstances around Leclerc-Imhoff's death.

"His killing is yet another example of the hideous toll taken on non-combatants by Russia's war on Ukraine," he said in a statement.

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According to CPJ, Leclerc-Imhoff is at least the eighth reporter to be killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. The international committee said it has been able to confirm the deaths of seven reporters and was investigating seven more.

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A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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