Sniper kills fixer and hits Italian reporter in Ukraine

time:2023-05-29 14:18:31 source:Al Jazeera

A Ukrainian journalist working as a fixer for Italy's La Repubblica newspaper has been shot dead by snipers in Ukraine.

Bogdan Bitik was working with Italian reporter Corrado Zunino, who was wounded, when they were ambushed by suspected Russian snipers in the Kherson region, the newspaper said.

Both were wearing bulletproof vests with "Press" written on them, it added.

Russia says it has annexed Kherson despite only controlling some of it.

The reporters were targeted near the Antonivskyi bridge across the Dnipro river near the Ukrainian-held city of Kherson, which sits on the river's west bank.

Russian troops destroyed the bridge when they withdrew across the river from the city in November. Ukrainian forces are now reported to have set up positions on the eastern bank nearby.

The reporters had passed three checkpoints and the Ukrainian military had let them through "without problem", Zunino said in a telephone conversation with his newspaper.

He then heard a "hiss" and saw his colleague lifeless on the ground.

"We were hit. I saw Bogdan on the ground, he wasn't moving," he said

"I crawled until I got out of the line of fire. I ran until I came across a civilian's car. I was covered in blood. I tried several times to call Bogdan, he didn't answer."

Zunino is being treated in hospital in Kherson.

Bitik "unfortunately did not make it", the newspaper wrote, adding that he leaves behind his wife and a son.

"He was a great friend of mine, the pain is excruciating," Zunino said.

The newspaper said it was proving difficult to recover Bitik's body because of Russian snipers.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Italian media that the Russians were responsible for the killing.

"Russians don't care if you're Russian, Italian or Ukrainian, they just shoot," he said.

Moscow did not immediately comment.

Before this death was announced, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said eight reporters had been killed and 19 injured in Ukraine since Russia's full-scale invasion last year.

Crossing the Dnipro river could be significant in future offensives. Ukraine's military has for some time publicly spoken about preparations for a major counter-offensive, without specifying where and when it could be launched.

Until now, all of the Kherson region on the east bank of the Dnipro has been under Russian control, with the wide river serving as a natural barrier.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Moscow-controlled parts of Kherson last week.

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