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AFP journalist killed in eastern Ukraine

CHASIV YAR, UKRAINE (AFP) – AFP‘s Ukraine video coordinator Arman Soldin was killed on Tuesday by rocket fire near Chasiv Yar in eastern Ukraine, AFP journalists who witnessed the incident said.

The attack happened at around 4.30pm on the outskirts of the town close to Bakhmut, the epicentre of the fighting in eastern Ukraine for several months.

The AFP team came under fire by Grad rockets while they were with a group of Ukrainian soldiers.

Soldin, 32, was killed when a rocket struck close to where he was lying. The rest of the team was uninjured. “The whole agency is devastated by the loss of Arman,” AFP Chairman Fabrice Fries said.

“His death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers faced by journalists every day covering the conflict in Ukraine.”

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Soldin on Twitter, hailing his “bravery”.

“With bravery, from the first hours of the conflict he was at the front to establish the facts.

To inform us,” Macron wrote, saying he shared “the pain of his relatives and all his colleagues”.

AFP journalist Arman Soldin smiles as a cat stands on his shoulders in Ukraine. PHOTO: AFP

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry offered its “heartfelt condolences” to Soldin’s family and coworkers in a statement on Twitter, saying he was killed in a Russian missile attack on Chasiv Yar in the eastern region of Donetsk. “He dedicated his life to informing the world about the truth. His legacy, as well as his cause, will live on,” it said.

He was part of the first AFP team to be sent to Ukraine following the start of the invasion on February 24, 2022, arriving on the following day.

Soldin had been living in Ukraine since September, leading the team’s video coverage and travelling regularly to the front lines in the east and south.

Soldin’s death means at least 11 journalists, fixers or drivers for media teams have been killed covering the war in Ukraine, according to the media advocacy groups Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

In Washington, United States (US), the White House also paid tribute to Soldin, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the world was “indebted” to the journalists who lost their lives covering the conflict.

“Journalism is fundamental to a free society,” she said in a statement. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also offered his condolences during a speech at the Freedom House think tank in Washington. “Today, we were devastated to learn of the death of AFP video journalist Arman Soldin in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones, and with the entire AFP family.”

“Arman’s brilliant work encapsulated everything that has made us so proud of AFP’s journalism in Ukraine,” the agency’s Global News Director Phil Chetwynd said.

“Arman’s death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers of covering this war. Our thoughts tonight are with his family and friends, and with all our people on the ground in Ukraine.”

AFP Europe Director Christine Buhagiar remembered Soldin as “a real on-the-ground reporter, always ready to work even in the most difficult places”, she said. “He was totally devoted to his craft.”

Colleagues said Soldin knew in particular how to recount the lives of ordinary people caught up in the Ukraine conflict, desperately trying to survive amid the chaos.

Earlier this month, he even rescued an injured hedgehog from a trench and nursed it back to health. He named it Lucky.