Ukrainian photojournalist Maks Levin, whose lifeless body was found riddled with bullets some twenty kilometers north of kyiv along with that of his friend, soldier Oleksiy Chernyshov on April 1, was executed three weeks earlier by Russian troops, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In a report published this Wednesday, which collects the different elements of an investigation it has carried out, RSF considers it proven that Levin and Chernyshov were executed by Russian soldiers on March 13 in a forest near the town of Doshchun, probably after be interrogated and tortured. The organization’s secretary general, Christophe Deloire, stressed that “in a context of war strongly marked by Kremlin propaganda and censorship, Maks Levin and his friend paid with their lives for their fight for verified information.” Deloire added that “we owe them the truth. And we will fight to identify and find those who executed them.”

The investigations were carried out between May 24 and June 3 by the head of the RSF investigation area, Arnaud Froger, and the French war photojournalist Patrick Chauvel, who had also worked with Levin in Donbas at end of February. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Levin, who was 40, came into contact with a group of Ukrainian soldiers whom he had known since 2014 while covering the conflict in the breakaway region of Donbas.

On March 10, he lost the drone he was using to take pictures in the forest near Moshchun and, when he returned three days later, that area was already partly occupied by Russian troops. Despite the risk, the photojournalist and his friend went in search of the drone, convinced as he was that the last images he had taken were very important, but there they lost track. Froger and Chauvel returned weeks after the Russian military had withdrawn from the region and reconstructed the crime scene with various items they located, including possible traces of DNA from the soldiers.

Nine of these pieces of evidence, as well as the photographs that Chauvel took, were handed over to the Ukrainian investigators who are in charge of clarifying the circumstances of what happened. Levin is one of eight journalists who have died since the start of the war in Ukraine in February. The last was the French cameraman Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, from the BFMTV channel, who was hit by shrapnel from a Russian artillery shot on May 30.

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