Two journalists working for Fox News have been killed outside of Kyiv amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine after the news network said their vehicle was “struck by incoming fire”.
Cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and producer Oleksandra Kurshynova were killed when their vehicle was struck in Horenka, outside of the Ukrainian capital. The Ukrainian ministry of defence blamed Russian troops for the attack.
Fox News presenter Bill Hemmer announced Zakrzewski’s death on air on Tuesday morning, calling the late journalist an “absolute legend” at the news channel.
“His loss is devastating. He has been with us for years covering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria,” Hemmer said.
“Our CEO Suzanne Scott noted a few moments ago that Pierre jumped in to help out with all sorts of roles in the field – photographer, engineer and editor and producer, and he did it all under immense pressure and with tremendous skill.”
The deaths of Zakrzewski and Kurshynova bring the death toll among journalists in the war to five, according to Ukrainian accounts. United States filmmaker Brent Renaudwas fatally injured over the weekend while covering the conflict.
Earlier in the day – before Zakrzewski’s and Kurshynova’s deaths were made public – the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights chief Lyudmyla Denisova said dozens of journalists had been wounded and at least three were killed in the fighting.
“At least 35 journalists have become victims” of Russian forces, including three who died, Denisova wrote on Telegram.
Renaud was shot dead by Russian forces on March 13 in the town of Irpin, outside of Kyiv, according to a regional police chief.
Ukrainian journalist Evgeny Sakun died in an attack on a Kyiv television tower and Viktor Dudar, another Ukrainian reporter, was killed in fighting close to the southern port city of Mykolaiv, she said.
Zakrzewski was 55 years old and Kuvshynova was 24. She was helping the Fox crew navigate the Kyiv area.
They were reporting in Horenka on the outskirts of Kiyv with Fox correspondent Benjamin Hall, who was injured in the incident and remains hospitalised, Fox News reported. The Ukrainian ministry of defence said in a tweet that Hall lost part of his leg.
Zakrzewski’s “passion and talent as a journalist were unmatched … He was profoundly committed to telling the story and his bravery, professionalism and work ethic were renowned among journalists at every media outlet”, Scott said in an internal memo announcing Zakrzewski’s death.
“He was wildly popular — everyone in the media industry who has covered a foreign story knew and respected Pierre.”
Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass troops near the Ukrainian border as it demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.
The war, which prompted a swift sanctions campaign by the US and its allies against Russia, has pushed nearly three million people to flee Ukraine, according to the United Nations, as Russian forces besiege and bombard Ukrainian towns and cities.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based watchdog, has called for “the protection of Ukrainian journalists, along with the international reporters and media workers who join them in covering the conflict, and asked Ukraine to exempt them from compulsory military service”.
On Tuesday, reporters and colleagues paid tribute to Zakrzewski.
“I worked with Pierre many times around the world. He was an absolute treasure. Sending our most heartfelt prayers to Pierre’s wife and family,” Fox anchor John Roberts wrote on Twitter.
Several US lawmakers eulogised Zakrzewski, referring to him as an American journalist. Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheal Martin said the cameraman was an Irish citizen.
“Deeply disturbed and saddened by the killing of Irish citizen and journalist Pierre Zakrzewski and one of his colleagues today,” Martin wrote on Twitter.
“My thoughts are with their families, friends and fellow journalists. We condemn this indiscriminate and immoral war by Russia on #Ukraine.”