Ukrainian leader Zelensky writes to family of slain US journalist

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has written a personal letter to the family of murdered American Brent Renaud, describing him as a “a talented and brave journalist” who helped document Russia’s atrocities.

Mr Renaud, a renowned filmmaker and journalist, was reportedly shot dead in Irpin, a suburb of Ukrainian capital Kyiv, as he worked on a project for the Time magazine, according to local police officials.

The incident on Sunday drew condolence messages from press freedom lobbies as well as Western leaders who criticised Russia for attacks on civilians.

Mr Zelensky said Renaud’s “life and sacrifice [will] inspire the world to stand up in fight for the forces of light against forces of darkness.”

“The people of Ukraine, who are fighting against the Russian regime to defend their homeland and democracy in the world, are mourning with you,” he told Mr Renaud’s family.

“We are thankful to Brent for his professionalism and commitment to the values of compassion, ethics and justice.”

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Previously a contributor to the New York Times¸ Renaud was reportedly filming the Russian invasion in Ukraine to document the plight of refugees with another journalist identified as Juan Arredondo. Their project employer, Time Magazine, called for safety of journalists even in times of war.

The identity of the gunmen behind his killings has not been revealed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the incident and called on Russian forces to stop targeting reporters.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the death of US journalist Brent Renaud in Ukraine. This kind of attack is totally unacceptable, and is a violation of international law,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s programme director in New York.

“Russian forces in Ukraine must stop all violence against journalists and other civilians at once, and whoever killed Renaud should be held to account.”

The US National Press Club said his death was a “tragic remind of the costs and stakes for journalists covering war and attacks on civilians.”

“That so many journalists—local and foreign, freelancer and staffers—are putting their health, lives and livelihoods on the line in order to cover the human cost of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a reminder to the world of why a free and independent press is so important and worthy of protection and support,” said a joint statement by Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute.

“Under international humanitarian law, journalists are non-combatants. We call for an investigation into the killing of Brent Renaud as a possible war crime.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, calling it a special military operation to counter what Moscow says is increasing security threats as Ukraine looks West for allies.

The invasion was roundly condemned, with 141 UN member states voting to condemn the “aggression” in a special sitting of the UN General Assembly earlier this month.

More than 630 civilians have been killed but Renaud was the first journalist targeted in the war.

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