Two Russian television journalists were killed Tuesday in a Ukrainian military attack on a militant roadblock near the eastern city of Luhansk, stirring accusations by the Russian government and media that Kiev’s troops are targeting civilians.
Reporter Igor Kornelyuk, 37, of Russian state broadcaster RTR died at a nearby hospital after a mortar round landed near where his crew was filming. Rossiya-24, the television crew’s network affiliate, later said it had confirmed that sound man Angon Voloshin had died at the scene of the attack but that ongoing fighting prevented his body from being retrieved.
They were the second and third Russian journalists killed in the separatist clashes in eastern Ukraine in less than a month,
The team was recording pro-Russia militants manning a roadblock in the village of Metalist, outside Luhansk, when the site came under fire.
“The Russian journalist’s death has once again convincingly shown the criminal essence of the forces that have unleashed the punitive operation in the east of Ukraine in which civilians continue to be killed,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement before Voloshin’s death was confirmed. The ministry demanded that Kiev investigate the circumstances of the 37-year-old’s death.
Cameraman Viktor Denisov, with whom Kornelyuk was working when the mortar attack began, survived when he ran in the opposite direction as the reporter and sound man, Rossiya-24 television reported.
An Italian photojournalist, Andrea Rocchelli, and his Russian assistant, Andrey Mironov, were killed by mortar fire May 24 near the embattled town of Slovyansk, another focal point in the fighting between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been warning of an intensified government campaign to recover militant-held territory since taking office June 7. He convened Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council on Monday to unveil a proposed peace plan that calls for a cease-fire with the pro-Russia militants as soon as government forces have sealed the border with Russia.
Kiev authorities accuse the Kremlin of arming and inciting the fighters occupying a dozen towns and cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Both areas held makeshift referendums on May 11 and proclaimed their seized territory to be the independent People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula two days after a similar and widely criticized referendum was held there on March 16, has denied any Russian role in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.
At least 125 Ukrainian troops have been killed since the militants began seizing local government and security service headquarters in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in late March, and at least as many separatists have died in the government’s “anti-terrorist operation” to recover control of the region.
Ukraine has been convulsed by rebellion and armed clashes for more than six months. Former President Viktor Yanukovich sparked months of angry protests in late November when he scrapped a trade association agreement with the European Union that had been three years in the making in favor of maintaining close economic integration with Russia.
The uprising toppled Yanukovich in late February, and Putin sent troops to Crimea a few days later to seize the strategic peninsula, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based. That land grab is believed to have encouraged the pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to take over government buildings and police stations in an attempt to compel Moscow to annex their regions as well.
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