Russian forces kills unarmed famous Ukrainian photojournalist

A Ukrainian photojournalist who worked for a number of major Western news outlets including Reuters and the BBC has been killed by Russian forces near Kyiv, the office of Ukraine’s attorney general said Saturday. 

The body of Maksym (Maks) Levin – who had been capturing the ongoing conflict – was found with two gunshot wounds in the Vyshgorod district which sits just north of the capital, the attorney general’s office said in a Facebook post, citing preliminary reports. 

“According to the preliminary information, the soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces killed the unarmed Maksym Levin with two gunshots,” it claimed. His next of kin have been informed, the office told CNN. 

A residential building destroyed by shelling is seen in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on March 3.
A residential building destroyed by shelling is seen in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on March 3. (Maksym Levin/Reuters)

Photographer Markiian Lyseiko told CNN that he was last in touch with his friend, known as Maks, on March 12, the day before he went missing in a district north of Kyiv, where he had been reporting on the fighting and fleeing civilians.

In their final conversations, Lyseiko said that Levin had asked him to come to the Ukrainian capital so they could cover the war together.  

Lyseiko, who worked alongside Levin since 2014 documenting the war in Donbas, where they embedded with Ukrainian soldiers for weeks at a time, described his friend in an interview with CNN on March 24 as an energetic and tenacious reporter, who often looked like he “had no fear.”

A Ukrainian soldier hides from a helicopter airstrike near Demydiv, Ukraine on March 10.
A Ukrainian soldier hides from a helicopter airstrike near Demydiv, Ukraine on March 10. (Maksym Levin/Reuters)

Since the war broke out eight years ago, Levin wanted to show the world what was happening in Ukraine, especially to Russia, Lyseiko said. “The best way to understand Maks is to look at his work,” Lyseiko said. “When you watch Maks’ films or see his photos, you will understand him, without words.”

A criminal investigation is being carried out by the Vyshgorod District prosecutor’s office into alleged violations of “laws and customs of war,” the attorney general’s office said, adding that “measures are being taken to establish all circumstances of the crime.”

Levin began working as a photojournalist in 2006, according to his bio on LensCulture, a photography resources website. He worked for Ukrainian news outlet LB.ua and was “well-known” in his field, having collaborated with Reuters, BBC, TRT World and Associated Press, according to the attorney general’s office.

In a statement online, LB.ua said Levin is survived by four sons, a civil partner and elderly parents. LB.ua said that in addition to journalism, Levin worked on dozens of photo and video projects for humanitarian organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UN Women.

In his bio, Levin described himself as a “documentary photographer/videographer, father, human being.”

Ukrainian service members take position at the Vasylkiv Air Base near Kyiv on February 27.
Ukrainian service members take position at the Vasylkiv Air Base near Kyiv on February 27. (Maksym Levin/Reuters)

The Reuters news agency on Saturday said it is “deeply saddened” over Levin’s death.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maksym Levin, a long-time contributor to Reuters, in Ukraine,” John Pullman, Reuters’ global managing editor for visuals, said in a statement to CNN.

“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,” Pullman said.

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