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Tributes paid to US journalist shot dead in Ukraine


By Clarissa Ward, Mick Krever, Brian Stelter and Lauren Kent, CNN

Award-winning American journalist Brent Renaud was killed by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Irpin, police in Kyiv said in social media posts on Sunday. Another American journalist, Juan Arredondo, was wounded.

In a tweet, Kyiv region police identified the dead man as Renaud, who was 50. Police posted a photo of his body and his American passport as evidence, as well as a photo of an outdated New York Times press badge with Renaud’s name.

Andriy Nebitov, the head of the Kyiv region police, said in a Facebook post that Russian forces shot Renaud, adding that “the occupants cynically kill even journalists of international media, who’ve been trying to tell the truth about atrocities of Russian military in Ukraine.”

“Of course, journalism carries risks, but the US citizen Brent Renaud paid with his life for an attempt to shed light on how underhand, cruel, and merciless the aggressor is,” Nebitov added.

CNN has not independently verified the account given by police.

Renaud is the first foreign journalist known to be killed in the war in Ukraine. A Ukrainian camera operator, Yevhenii Sakun, was reportedly killed when Kyiv’s TV tower was shelled earlier this month.

Press freedom groups denounced Sunday’s violence as a violation of international law.

“Russian forces in Ukraine must stop all violence against journalists and other civilians at once, and whoever killed Renaud should be held to account,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.

Time magazine told CNN that Renaud, an acclaimed filmmaker, was in Ukraine in recent weeks to work on “a Time Studios project focused on the global refugee crisis.”

“Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones,” the publication said. “It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”

Arredondo, a Colombian-American photographer, appeared in a social media video from Okhmatdyt hospital in Kyiv and recounted the shooting. He said he and Renaud were driving through a checkpoint in Irpin on the way to film refugees leaving the city when Russian forces opened fire.

Arredondo said there were “two of us,” and Renaud was “shot and left behind,” adding that Renaud was shot in the neck. “We got split and I got pulled into the (stretcher).” Asked how he got to the hospital, he replied, “an ambulance, I don’t know.”

Arredondo, a filmmaker and visual journalist who is also an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School, posted photos from Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on Saturday, noting in an Instagram post that he is “#onassignment.”

The Dean of Columbia Journalism School, Steve Coll, told CNN: “We don’t have any independent information about his injuries at this time but are working now to learn more and to see if we can help.”

Arredondo is a prominent photographer, with work featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, ESPN, Vanity Fair and other media outlets, according to his personal website bio.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said in a statement on Telegram that Renaud “paid with his life for attempting to expose the insidiousness, cruelty and ruthlessness of the aggressor.”

Irpin, in northern Ukraine just outside Kyiv, has been the site of substantial Russian shelling in recent days and has seen extensive destruction, according to the Kyiv regional government on Friday.

Tributes to Renaud

Renaud was a Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker, producer and journalist who lived and worked in New York and Little Rock, Arkansas, according to his biography on the Renaud Brothers website.

With his brother Craig, Renaud spent years “telling humanistic verite stories from the World’s hot spots,” including projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt and Libya, according to his website bio.

Ann Marie Lipinski, the director of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, said the foundation was “heartsick” over the death of the journalist, who was a 2019 Harvard Nieman Fellow.

“Our Nieman Fellow Brent Renaud was gifted and kind, and his work was infused with humanity. He was killed today outside Kiev, and the world and journalism are lesser for it. We are heartsick,” she said in a tweet.

A post on the Renaud Brothers Facebook page, dated March 8, urged readers to follow their coverage of the war Ukraine.

Christof Putzel, a friend and colleague of Renaud, told CNN his death was a “devastating” loss.

“I woke up this morning to the news that Brent, long-time best friend, incredible colleague, the best war journalist I think ever existed, finding out about his passing,” Putzel said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

“Brent had this ability to go anywhere, get any story, listen and communicate what was happening to people that others wouldn’t otherwise see it. And it is a devastating loss to journalism today,” he added.

Putzel said Renaud was working on a documentary about refugees around the world when the crisis in Ukraine began. He said that “Brent was on the plane the next day” and covered the plight of refugees from Kyiv into Poland.

Several years ago, the pair won a duPont award for a story they worked on about guns being smuggled into Mexico from the United States.

“What I said when we accepted our award was, the only thing bigger than Brent’s balls are his heart. And I stand by that. That’s what kind of journalist he was,” said Putzel.

Renaud had a unique ability to make people trust him as he told their stories in places like Iraq and other war zones, he added.

“You could sit down and spend a week watching all of Brent’s stories over the years back-to-back and just be flabbergasted,” Putzel said. “The career that he had, his ability to reach people, his ability to capture the humanity behind people’s suffering is something I have never seen before, and I was just honored to work with him as long as I did.”

— CNN’s Clarissa Ward reported from Kyiv, Mick Krever reported from Poland, Brian Stelter reported from New York and Lauren Kent wrote in London.

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