Ukrainian Photographer Missing From Kyiv Frontline and Feared Abducted

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Kyiv: The disappearance of a photojournalist who was reporting from a frontline near Kyiv more than a week ago has fuelled growing concerns over the dangers faced by Ukrainian journalists covering Russia’s invasion of their country.

Maks Levin has not been heard from since 13 March, when he was reporting in the Vishgorod district, north of Kyiv, where he had been capturing both the fighting and fleeing civilians, according to fellow Ukrainian photographer Markiian Lyseiko.

Levin’s phone has been out of service since he sent his last message that morning when he was stopped while travelling between villages, Lyseiko wrote on Facebook, adding that he believes Levin may have been injured or captured by Russian forces during intense fighting that day.

Levin’s disappearance has prompted public appeals for information from fellow Ukrainian journalists.

“Our good friend, talented war photojournalist Maks Levin, has gone missing. He had yet another field day in a combat zone outside Kyiv on March 13. Ever since then, no one has had any contact with him. If you follow this war, you have definitely seen a lot of his works,” tweeted Illia Ponomarenko, defence reporter for the Kyiv Independent.

Press freedom groups say that Levin is not the first Ukrainian journalist to have disappeared.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said two other journalists, Oleh Baturyn and Viktoria Roshchina, had previously gone missing but have since been released by their abductors, who are presumed to belong to the Russian armed forces.

“Far too many journalists have gone missing while covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and all parties to the conflict should ensure that the press can work safely and without fear of abduction,” said Gulnoza Said, the CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator.

In a Facebook message posted by his sister, which did not identify his captor, Baturyn said he was deprived of water, soap and clean clothes for days.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that targeting journalists was a war crime, and said that three other journalists had been abducted since the invasion.

One journalist, who had been helping foreign media, was beaten, electrocuted and subjected to a mock execution while in detention for nine days.

RSF said it would be referring the case of Nikita, whose name was changed for his security, to the international criminal court investigation into war crimes.

“Nikita has given us a chilling testimony that confirms the intensity of the war crimes perpetrated by the Russian army against journalists,” said the group’s secretary-general, Christophe Deloire. “Passing his testimony on to the ICC prosecutor is the least we can do for this courageous young fixer.”

Three reporters have been killed during the conflict: Brent Renaud, an American film-maker, Irish cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova. Television news crews have described being shot at even when they have identified themselves as journalists, prompting speculation that they were targeted on purpose.

On Monday, Mstyslav Chernov, a Ukrainian Associated Press videographer, published a chilling account of his experience as one of the last international journalists in the besieged city of Mariupol, where he said Russian troops had attempted to locate him.

“Impunity is the second goal. With no information coming out of a city, no pictures of demolished buildings and dying children, the Russian forces could do whatever they wanted. If not for us, there would be nothing.

“That’s why we took such risks to be able to send the world what we saw, and that’s what made Russia angry enough to hunt us down,” he wrote.

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