Photo-journalist Maks Levin was executed by Russian soldiers in a forest near Kyiv, possibly after being interrogated and tortured, a report carried out by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has concluded.
On Friday, April 1, 2022, the bodies of Levin and his friend, Ukrainian soldier Oleksiy Chernyshov, were found in a forest near the village of Moshchun, 20 km north of Kyiv. The pair had been executed by Russian soldiers on the morning of Sunday, March 13.
Reporters Without Borders, an organization that states its main objective as being to “defend the right of every human being to have access to free and reliable information”, sent two investigators to the scene of the war crime, to collect evidence and interview potential witnesses.
Their new report, released on Wednesday, June 23, is based on the findings of Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s investigation desk, and Patrick Chauvel, a French war photo-reporter who had worked with Levin in the Donbas at the end of February.
They concluded that Levin and Chernyshov were executed in cold blood, stating that “the evidence against the Russian forces is overwhelming.”
The reports goes on to reconstruct the events that took place on the day of Levin’s murder:
“On March 10, Levin lost his drone in the forest near Moshchun while trying to get footage from Russia’s military invasion in the area. When he returned to these woods three days later, the Russians were already occupying part of the forest. The terrain was hostile but Levin was determined to recover his drone at all costs because he was convinced that the last images it had taken were very important. He did not succeed.
“When RSF arrived in Ukraine on May 24 to begin its investigation, Russia had withdrawn its troops from the region for several weeks. But the area was still dangerous. The Russians left traps and explosive devices.
“Accompanied by members of the security forces, RSF managed to locate the crime scene. Levin’s charred Ford Maverick was still there. RSF found several bullets at the scene, along with the identity papers of Chernyshov, the soldier who was with Levin, and identified 14 bullet impacts in his car.
“Several items with possible DNA traces attesting to the presence of Russian soldiers very close to the spot where Levin and Chernyshov were killed were also identified by RSF and some of them were taken. In a final search phase initiated by RSF, metal detectors located a bullet that had probably struck Levin.
“In the course of this visit, RSF was received by Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor-general, the head of the department for investigating crimes against the media, and the head of the Kyiv regional prosecutor’s office. As a result of these meetings, RSF’s Arnaud Froger was formally interviewed as a witness in the Ukrainian investigation into Levin’s murder. This interview, by members of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), took place in Kyiv on June 1. During this interview, RSF handed over nine pieces of evidence collected in the field and a USB flash drive containing several dozen photos of the crime scene taken by Patrick Chauvel.
“Analysis of the photos of the crime scene, the observations made on the spot and the material evidence recovered clearly point to an execution that may have been preceded by interrogation or even acts of torture.
“Levin and his friend paid with their lives for their fight for reliable information. We owe them the truth. And we will fight to identify and find those who executed them.”
A funeral service for the Ukrainian photo-journalist was held in Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Cathedral. The head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphaniy, said that he was “one of the best photographers of modern Ukraine”, who “served the truth”.
Maks Levin is one of 33 journalists and media workers who have been killed in the course of their work since the start of the war in Ukraine. The latest media victim is Volodymyr
Chepovy, general director of Blitz-Info publishing house killed in battle. The
circumstances of his death are currently unknown, according to unconfirmed
information, it happened near Severodonetsk.
The full RSF report can be read here.
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