Italian photojournalist dies covering conflict in eastern Ukraine [update]

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Freelance photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli, 30, was killed on Saturday in Slavyansk while covering clashes between government forces and pro-Russia insurgents, reports the Italian Foreign Ministry.

60-year-old Andrey Mironov, an avid human rights activist who was acting as Rocchelli’s Russian interpreter at the time, was also killed. French photographer William Roguelon was wounded.

Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini expressed her condolences to relatives of both Rocchelli and Mironov, whose bodies are to be formally identified, reports Associated Press.

In a news bulletin broadcast on Russian television, Roguelon said he and his companions had come under mortar fire while seeking shelter in a roadside ditch.

“We went to the area because there had been a bombing next to a neighbourhood,” Roguelon told reporters at Slavyansk hospital, according to news wire agency Reuters. “So, there was nothing when we arrived. We were an Italian journalist, a fixer, a driver. After we arrived we got shot at; we threw ourselves in a ditch after they shot at least 40 shells at us and the vehicle.”

Slavyansk in the north of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region has been at the centre of intensified fighting within the past few weeks.

Rocchelli was part of the Italian-based Cesura photographers’ collective, which he co-founded in 2008. Tributes to the photographer have been posted to the collective’s Facebook page.

A tribute on Cesura’s homepage described Rocchelli as “a pillar for our group”. It added: “He was for us – and still is – a model of integrity, honesty and constant dedication. We love him as a brother.”

Mironov, a former member of Russian human rights group Memorial, was a prolific political activist and journalist who frequently spoke out against the Russian government, according to news reports.

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