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Macron praises courage of French journalist killed by rocket fire in Ukraine

Journalist Arman Soldin of Agence France-Presse is seen in a trench in Ukraine in March. He was killed in a rocket strike this week. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
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French journalist Arman Soldin was killed by rocket fire near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, said Agence France-Presse, his employer.

He was at least the 17th journalist killed in Ukraine since the war began, according to a database from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Reporters Without Borders estimates more than 12,000 Ukrainian and foreign journalists have been accredited to cover the war.

Soldin, 32, was a video coordinator with the French wire service, AFP said. He began covering the conflict at its start in February 2022 and had lived in Ukraine full-time since September.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Soldin was “one of our compatriots.”

“With courage, from the first hours of the conflict, he was at the front to establish the facts. To inform us,” Macron wrote on Twitter. “We share the pain of his loved ones and all his colleagues.”

Soldin was with Ukrainian soldiers and other AFP journalists near the town of Chasiv Yar when he was struck by Grad rocket fire about 4:30 p.m., AFP said. No one else among its team suffered injuries, it added.

In a sad echo of what was to come, Soldin said on Twitter last week that “being caught under a rain of Grad yesterday with a bunch of trench-diggers is probably one of the worst things that I’ve experienced since being in Ukraine, with rockets exploding less than 50 metres away. Pure terror.”

Fabrice Fries, AFP’s chairman, said the agency was devastated by the loss. “His death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers faced by journalists every day covering the conflict in Ukraine,” he said.

In Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops cling to western edge of a destroyed city

Soldin was a French national who was born in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. He spoke six languages, according to his Twitter bio.

He was known for his kind nature. In the past weeks, he had rescued a hedgehog from a shelling crater and nursed it back to health.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “All we can do is express our regret.” But he added that it was “necessary to look into the circumstances of the death of this journalist.” He referred reporters to Russia’s Defense Ministry for more information and warned against trusting Ukraine’s narrative.

The fighting in Bakhmut has been among the bloodiest since the war began, defined by trench and urban warfare with heavy casualties on both sides, devastating what was a city of about 70,000 people.

U.S. officials told reporters on April 30 that Russian forces have suffered 20,000 deaths and 80,000 injuries since December, many around Bakhmut. The Ukrainian figure is unclear.

Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.