French journalist killed near Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk as Russia attacks Donbas

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Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff (AP)
Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff (AP)

A French journalist has been killed while covering the war in Ukraine, Emmanuel Macron has said on Monday.

Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, from 24-hour news channel BFMTV, was in the conflict-torn country to show the “reality of the war”, the French president added.

Mr Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, was covering an evacuation operation near the eastern city of Severodonetsk, French foreign minister Catherine Colonna said.

“On board a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot,” Mr Macron tweeted.

“To those who carry out the difficult mission of informing in theatres of operations, I would like to reiterate France’s unconditional support.”

Mr Macron said he shared the “pain of the family, relatives and colleagues” of Mr Leclerc-Imhoff, to whom he sent his condolences.

Ms Colonna said the journalist’s death was “deeply shocking” and that France demanded a “transparent investigation be undertaken as soon as possible”.

BFMTV released a statement saying he was the “victim of shrapnel” and was killed on the road to Lyssytchansk, adding: “He was accompanied by his colleague Maxime Brandstaetter, who was slightly injured during this strike, and their ‘fixer’ Oksana Leuta, who was not affected.”

BFMTV also said Mr Leclerc-Imhoff was a graduate of the Institute of Journalism Bordeaux Aquitaine and had worked for the channel for six years.

It was his second mission to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, which began on 24 February.

Russian troops entered the eastern city of Severodonetsk this morning, according to local reports.

The city’s district administration head, Roman Vlasenko, as confirming troops were able to breach the city from two directions.

He said: “The enemy was able to enter from two directions, Novoaydar and Starobilsk. It is controlling a strip of around 100m. They could not advance much deeper, our guys are holding the line.”

Now, the Ukrainian defence ministry says Russian forces are regrouping to resume their attack of the nearby Sloviansk region - while attempting to encircle Severodonetsk.

It was added that Ukrainian troops had “some success in advancing towards the coastal areas where Russian forces took defensive positions”.

Severodonetsk is one of the last remaining hubs in Luhansk still under Kyiv’s control - but has been under siege from Russia for days amid fears it could become the next Mariupol.

Luhansk is part of the Donbas. Russia has made it an “unconditional priority” of the war to capture the Donbas, as confirmed by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Two journalists were died when artillery fire targeted a crew with the US TV channel Fox News in Horenka, near, Kyiv, on 14 March.

Pierre Zakrzewski, a 55-year-old cameraman who was used to covering wars, and Olexandra Kuvshynova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist working for Fox News.

More than 20 journalists have been killed since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

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