Media watchdog groups are expressing concern over the fate of journalists who have disappeared in Ukraine after a Ukrainian photojournalist was found dead Saturday.
Maks Levin, a Ukrainian photographer who had been missing for more than two weeks, was found dead near the capital, Kyiv.
“He went missing in the conflict area on March 13 in the Kyiv region. His body was found near the village of Huta-Mezhyhirska on April 1,” presidential aide Andriy Yermak said Saturday in a post on Telegram.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned Levin’s death, calling on both sides of the conflict to investigate the killing.
Russian and Ukrainian authorities must “ensure that those responsible are held accountable and guarantee the safety of journalists covering the war from the ground,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said in a statement Saturday.
The Washington-based National Press Club said Levin was killed by Russian forces while working north of Kyiv. It added that Levin is the ninth journalist to have been killed covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine which began February 24.
“We ask that his death be investigated as a war crime. Targeting of civilians, including journalists, is a war crime,” Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, said in a joint statement Sunday.
Russia is denying the targeting of civilians or journalists, saying such reports are “fake news.”
A Lithuanian filmmaker, Mantas Kvedaravicius, was killed Saturday in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian military. Mariupol, in southeast Ukraine, is besieged by Russian forces.
Since the beginning of the conflict, several journalists have also been wounded in attacks by Russian forces.
Ukrainian journalist Andriy Tsaplienko, a correspondent for the 1+1 news channel, was hit by shrapnel March 25, when he was covering a humanitarian corridor near the northern city of Chernihiv.
Several other Ukrainian journalists have been reported missing in recent days.
The CPJ reported Friday that Ukrainian journalist Konstantin Ryzhenko has been missing since March 30. On the same day, Russian soldiers searched in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson for Ryzhenko, and since then his family has lost contact with him.
Kherson is currently under the control of Russian forces, according to media reports.
A day after his disappearance, a note appeared on Ryzhenko’s Telegram account, saying “if you are reading this text, it means that something has happened.”
The post apparently explained that Ryzhenko, who works as the chief editor of the Kherson Newscity local news website, had scheduled that post for publication in case he had been detained or lost access to his phone or to the internet.
Ryzhenko’s “disappearance adds to a growing list of Ukrainian journalists who have gone missing since the beginning of the Russian invasion,” Gulnoza Said, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement Friday.
Another Ukrainian journalist, Iryna Dubchenko, was detained March 26 by Russian forces and taken to the eastern city of Donetsk, according to the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists, and members of her family.
Donetsk is controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Dubchenko, who has worked for several Ukrainian outlets including the news website Depo.Zaporizhzhia, newspaper Subota and the UNIAN news agency, was reportedly arrested in the town of Rozivka, where she was caring for her grandmother.
Her sister, Oleksandra, told the Ukrainian journalists’ union that when Russian soldiers searched her home March 26, they said they “knew everything about [Dubchenko’s] journalistic activities.”