Levin and his friend and bodyguard were executed by Russian soldiers.

Following a visit to Ukraine from 24 May to 3 June to investigate Ukrainian photo-journalist Maks Levin’s death, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is releasing a report with information and evidence indicating that Levin and his friend and bodyguard were executed by Russian soldiers in a forest near Kyiv on 13 March, possibly after being interrogated and even tortured.

A smell of burning lingers in Moshchun, a village 20 km north of Kyiv that was heavily bombarded in early March, when the Russian tried to take the Ukrainian capital. Half of the houses were destroyed, the ground is still strewn with the debris of armoured vehicles and the few residents who stayed in the village during the occupation are still traumatised. It was in the forest near the village that the bodies of Levin and his friend, the soldier Oleksiy Chernyshov, were found on 1 April. The two men had been killed on 13 March.

RSF locates the crime scene and burned car of Ukrainian journalist Maks Levin, who was killed on 13 March 2022 in a forest north of Kyiv. 28 May 2022

RSF sent two investigators to collect evidence and search for clues from 24 May to 3 June: Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s investigation desk, and Patrick Chauvel, a French war photo-reporter who had worked with Levin in the Donbas at the end of February. They concluded that Levin and Chernyshov were executed in cold blood. The evidence against the Russian forces is overwhelming. It is detailed in a report published today entitled How Ukrainian journalist Maks Levin was executed by Russian forces. On the basis of the information and evidence they gathered, RSF’s investigators were able to reconstruct what happened.
Ukrainian photo-journalist Maks Levin, killed near Kyiv on 13 March 2022.

Aged 40, Levin was an experienced freelancer who often collaborated with LB.ua, a respected Ukrainian news site, and with the news agency Reuters. When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, he contacted a group of soldiers he had known since covering the conflict in the Donbas in 2014. He wanted to cover this war as closely as possible to those fighting it, and above all, to those being subjected to it.

Accompanied by members of the security forces, RSF managed to locate the crime scene. Levin’s charred Ford Maverick was still there. RSF found several bullets at the scene, along with the identity papers of Chernyshov, the soldier who was with Levin, and identified 14 bullet impacts in his car. Several items with possible DNA traces attesting to the presence of Russian soldiers very close to the spot where Levin and Chernyshov were killed were also identified by RSF and some of them were taken. In a final search phase initiated by RSF, metal detectors located a bullet that had probably struck Levin.

“Analysis of the photos of the crime scene, the observations made on the spot and the material evidence recovered clearly point to an execution that may have been preceded by interrogation or even acts of torture.
In the context of a war heavily marked by propaganda and Kremlin censorship, Maks Levin and his friend paid with their lives for their fight for reliable information. We owe them the truth. And we will fight to identify and find those who executed them.

In the course of this visit, RSF was received by Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor-general, the head of the department for investigating crimes against the media, and the head of the Kyiv regional prosecutor’s office. As a result of these meetings, RSF’s Arnaud Froger was formally interviewed as a witness in the Ukrainian investigation into Levin’s murder. This interview, by members of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), took place in Kyiv on 1 June. During this interview, RSF handed over nine pieces of evidence collected in the field and a USB flash drive containing several dozen photos of the crime scene taken by Patrick Chauvel.
Food packaging and plastic cutlery used by Russian soldiers that RSF found on 28 May 2022 near a trench close to the spot where journalist Maks Levin’s car passed on 13 March.

Maks Levin is one of eight journalists who have been killed in the course of their work since the start of the war in Ukraine. The latest media victim is Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, a French video reporter working for the French TV news channel BFM TV, who was killed by shrapnel from a shell fired by Russian forces on 30 May.

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