A Ukrainian photojournalist is believed to have been tortured and then “executed in cold blood” in the early days of the Russian invasion.
Maksim Levin, who was a long-time contributor to Reuters news agency, was found dead on April 1 alongside his soldier friend Olekisy Chernyshov.
An investigation by Reports Without Borders (RSF) concluded that Levin and his friend were murdered by Russian soldiers in a forest near Kiev on March 13, the day they were reported missing.
The evidence suggests that the pair “were executed in cold blood by Russian forces, probably after being interrogated and tortured, on the day they went missing,” the group concludes.
Investigators recovered bullets from the scene that they say are commonly used by the Russian army.
RSF told the Agence France-Presse it will file a complaint specifically related to Levin’s killing with the International Criminal Court in The Hague — its sixth such complaint related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Levin is one of at least eight journalists killed since Russia invaded on February 24, according to RSF’s tally.
RSF sent investigators from late May to June, among them experienced war photographer Patrick Chauvel, who had worked with Levin in the Donbas region.
The team suggested two possible scenarios, including the possibility that Levin and his soldier friend — whose body was burned — were shot after being spotted by Russian soldiers.
Alternatively, the pair may have been intercepted in their car and interrogated and tortured separately — with Chernyshov perhaps even burned alive.
RSF say it has handed the material evidence and photos to Ukrainian authorities.
Born in 1981, Levin was a documentary filmmaker contributing news coverage to Reuters since 2013. He leaves behind his wife and four children.
Reuters’ global managing editor for visuals John Pullman, spoke highly of Levin after his death in April.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maksim Levin, a long-time contributor to Reuters, in Ukraine.”
“Maks has provided compelling photos and video from Ukraine to Reuters since 2013. His death is a huge loss to the world of journalism. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.