Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier accompanying him appeared to be “brutally executed” in the first weeks of the Ukrainian war as they searched the Russian-occupied woods for the photographer’s disappearance. machine, Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday.
The Freedom of the Press group said it had sent investigators back to the woods north of the capital Kyiv, where the bodies of Max Levin and soldier Oleksiy Chernyshov were found on April 1. The group said its team found 14 bullet holes in the pair of burned hulls. car, stay on site.
Citing its findings into the deaths, the group said abandoned Russian positions were found nearby, one of which was still booby-trapped. The remains of what appeared to be rations, cigarette boxes and other trash left behind by Russian soldiers were also found.
Reporters Without Borders said some of Levin and Chernishov’s belongings, including the soldiers’ identification documents, some bulletproof vests and the photographer’s helmet, were also recovered.
A Ukrainian team with metal detectors also found a bullet in the soil where Levin’s body was located, it said. The group said the finding suggested that “he may have been killed by one, perhaps two, bullets fired at close range while he was already on the ground.”
It added that a gasoline can was also found near where Chernyshov’s burned body was found.
Reporters Without Borders said its findings “show that the two men were undoubtedly executed in cold blood.”
Levin and Chernyshov were last heard on March 13. The group said a GPS tracker in their car gave them their last location in the woods north of Kyiv.
The group speculates that Levin may have been looking for his drone when he and Chernyshov were killed.
It said Levin lost his drone in the area on March 10 and was unable to retrieve it due to Russian fire. Drones have become a common tool for photojournalists to obtain aerial photos and videos.
Reporters Without Borders said Levin sometimes shared information gleaned from his drones, including information about Russian positions, with Ukrainian forces.
“But the use of his drone was first and foremost a journalistic exercise, as confirmed by his entourage and shown by images sold to the media since the beginning of the Russian invasion,” it said.
The group said it had handed over the collected evidence and dozens of photos to Ukrainian investigators.
The group said it could not confirm whether an autopsy had been carried out on the men’s bodies, which is crucial in investigating the circumstances of their deaths.
It also called on Ukraine’s defense and intelligence agencies to provide investigators with any information they had about Russian forces that occupied the area during the failed Moscow attack on Kyiv.
Separately, Russian officials said a drone attack sparked a fire at an oil processing plant in southwestern Russia on Wednesday.
The fire engulfed a machine at the Novshakhtinsk factory in the Rostov-on-Don region. Authorities said dozens of firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control and no one was injured.
The factory said in a statement that the fire was caused by a strike carried out by two drones, describing it as a “terrorist” act. It did not provide details, but state news agency TASS reported that two Ukrainian drones flew over the factory and one hit a heat exchanger, causing a fire.
Fragments of two drones were found on the factory’s territory, regional governor Vasily Golubev said.
Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed the strike.