A Ukrainian journalist was killed on Wednesday as he travelled to the city of Kherson with his Italian colleague.
Bogdan Bitik, who was interpreting for La Repubblica reporter Corrado Zunino, was shot “most likely by Russian snipers”, the Italian newspaper reported.
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Zunino was shot in the shoulder and is now receiving medical treatment.
He told La Repubblica from a hospital bed that they had passed three Ukrainian checkpoints when they were suddenly hit.
“I heard a hiss, and I saw Bogdan on the ground,” Zunino said.
“He wasn’t moving. I crawled out of the line of fire. I ran until I passed a civilian car. I was full of blood. I had to be taken to Kherson Hospital.”
He added that he had been trying to call Bitik, who he described as “a great friend”, but got no answer.
“It’s excruciating,” he said.
Both men were wearing press vests when they were attacked near the destroyed Antonivskyi Bridge, according to Zunino.
At least 15 media workers and journalists have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Sergiy Tomilenko, head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, said the attack was a “new war crime of the Russians” as he called for Italian groups and newspapers such as La Repubblica to do more to protect Ukrainian reporters.
This murder of the Ukrainian journalist Bogdan Bitik and wounding of @corzunino is a new war crime of the Russians. At the same time, we appeal to the Italian Unions and to @repubblica with a call to guarantee the protection of the rights of the Ukrainian fixer @EFJEUROPE pic.twitter.com/N2mjtfWYJI
— Sergiy Tomilenko (@Stommedia) April 27, 2023
“I’m fine. But I’m sad to have lost a friend,” Zunino said in an interview on the Breakfast Club show at Radio Capital.
“I went on five missions with Bogdan. I’ve known him since I first arrived in Ukraine. He had returned to Ukraine from Indonesia, where he has a wife and a son. I have just spoken to his wife. They are all extraordinary, kind and generous people”.
It has not yet been possible to recover Bitik’s body, La Repubblica reported.
Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson in November 2022 after the city had been occupied in the early weeks of the war.
Since then, Russian forces, which had retreated across the Dnipro River, have bombarded the region with regular artillery strikes, missiles, drone attacks and snipers.
In December 2022, two Italian reporters, Claudio Locatelli and Niccolò Celesti, accompanied by their interpreter, came under attack in a Russian strike in the Kherson region; they all survived but Locatelli was injured.