3 foreign journalists caught in violence near Slavyansk, 2 possibly dead
An Italian reporter and his interpreter have reportedly been shot dead and a French photographer has been wounded near the city of Slavyansk, in eastern Ukraine, as their car came under mortar fire.
The injured French journalist identified as William Roguelon has been taken to a local hospital where he received treatment and managed to leave the facility on his own.
The wound of the French freelance photographer injured by mortar shrapnel near Andrrivka pic.twitter.com/ZhYDRyLRct
— Roza Kazan (@rozakazancctv) May 24, 2014
Roguelon, from the hospital reached out to Agence France Presse (AFP) and described how out of nowhere their vehicle was bombarded with mortar shells.
“Before that we heard Kalashnikov shots,” Roguelon was quoted by the Italian tgcom24. “Then the mortar shells rained down all around,” he said claiming to have heard up 60 explosions as they tried to hide in the “middle of a ditch.”
The man, who works as a freelance photographer, has told Russian media that after the shooting he saw his Italian colleagues lying on the ground not moving, Rossiya 24 channel reported.
“In the village of Andreyevka, not far from Slavyansk, an Italian journalist and his interpreter have been shot dead and a French correspondent wounded. Their car came under fire,” a source from the self-defense forces has told RIA Novosti.
Andrea Rocchelli Italian reporter killed in #Sloviansk, #Ukraine il reporter italiano ucciso a #Slaviansk, #Ucraina pic.twitter.com/AySsIXGJ43
— Aureliano Ferri (@AurelianoFerri) May 24, 2014
The Italian journalist has been identified as Andrea Rocchelli, while the interpreter is believed to be Russian national Andrey Mironov, who was holding an Italian passport. The Italian Foreign Ministry has not yet confirmed the identities, saying it was still in the process of verifying the information on the incident, according to repubblica.it.
So casualties seem to be Andrea Rocchelli (Italian) and Andrei Mironov (his fixer, Russian). + wounded French William Roguelon
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) May 24, 2014
According to Roguelon the mortar fire was coming from the side of Ukrainian forces.
#Roguelon told me gunfire & mortars came from side controlled by Ukr. forces – from southern direction towards north towards #Slavyansk
— Roza Kazan (@rozakazancctv) May 24, 2014
The area around the city of Slavyansk has been gripped by violence on Saturday, a day before the scheduled presidential election. Shooting was reported in the village of Semyonovka, where a psychiatric hospital has been partly ruined in a fight between Kiev troops and self-defense forces. Witnesses said a shell hit the roof of the hospital.
According to reports, shooting, artillery and machinegun fire have been heard in the outskirts of Semyonovka starting Friday night.
Shell-holes can be seen in the ground all around the village. Smoke was reportedly seen billowing from at least three locations in Slavyansk on Saturday.
Russian journalists released, flown from Kiev to Russia
Two Russian journalists working for LifeNews agency, detained by Kiev forces for almost a week, have been released and flown to Russia, according to the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.
“Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko are free! The plane carrying them set a course from Kiev for Grozny!” Kadyrov wrote in his Instagram along with a photo of the journalists aboard the aircraft.
The plane was waiting in Kiev ready to pick up the journalists and depart at a moment’s notice for over 4 days. The existence of that aircraft, chartered by the Chechen leader, was kept secret for the journalists’ safety, LifeNews reports.
The journalists will take some rest in Grozny, the Chechen leader said, and will fly to Moscow on Sunday to finally meet their relatives and friends after a weeklong detention.
Kadyrov wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “proved to the whole world that citizens of our country, wherever they are, are under a solid protection.”
“Today is the happiest, one of the happiest days of our lives,” says Sidyakin in the short clip. “Thank you so much, Vladimir Vladimirovich!”
“I also what to thank everyone, who helped us get out,” Saichenko added.
Two Russian journalists working for LifeNews TV channel – reporter Oleg Sidyakin and cameraman Marat Saichenko – were captured by Kiev forces on May 18 near the eastern city of Kramatorsk.
For almost a week the detained journalists were being investigated on charges of “aiding the terrorist groups,” according to Kiev authorities, who refused to share any details of their whereabouts and denied a special observation mission to visit the detained Russian journalists.