French journalist killed during Russian bombardment in Ukraine

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A French journalist was killed Monday during a Russian bombardment that struck a vehicle evacuating civilians from eastern Ukraine, French and Ukrainian officials said.

"Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was in Ukraine to show the reality of war," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

"Onboard a humanitarian bus with civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombings, he was mortally wounded."

Leclerc-Imhoff was working for the BFM television news channel, which said he was 32 years old and on his second Ukraine reporting trip since the war began on February 24.

He was near Severodonetsk, a city in Ukraine's east that has been pounded by advancing Russian troops in recent weeks, the French and Ukrainian foreign ministries said in separate statements.

Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who visited Kyiv on Monday, said on Twitter that Leclerc-Imhoff had been killed "by a Russian bombardment of a humanitarian mission while he was carrying out his duty to inform.

"I have spoken with the government of Lugansk and asked President [Volodymyr] Zelensky for an inquiry, and they assured me of their help and support," she wrote.

Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaidai said on Telegram that "our armoured evacuation vehicle was going to pick ten people up from the area and came under enemy fire".

- Journalists 'must be protected' -

BFM said its journalist had been hit by shrapnel from the bombing, and his colleague Maxime Brandstaetter wounded. Their local fixer Oksana Leuta was not hurt.

"This tragic event reminds us of the dangers faced by all journalists who have been risking their lives to describe this conflict for more than three months now," BFM said in a statement.

"Frederic wasn't a hothead. He weighed every moment of his mission" and "judged it was secure enough to go along", the broadcaster's chief Marc-Olivier Fogiel said on air.

He added that the first reaction of Leclerc-Imhoff's mother on hearing of his death was to ask if his colleagues were unharmed.

"She understood her son's job... with a form of pride," Fogiel said.

Macron wrote: "I share the grief of his family, relatives and colleagues," adding that "to those who ensure the difficult mission of reporting in combat zones, I want to reiterate France's unconditional support".

Reporters Without Borders, an international media advocacy group, says at least eight journalists have been killed while reporting on the Ukraine conflict.

The chief of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay on Monday condemned the killing of Leclerc-Imhoff and called for journalists working in conflict zones to be protected in line with past UN Security Council resolutions.

"Journalists who work tirelessly in Ukraine to inform us about the reality of war must be protected from attack," she said.

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