By LOD Onyeji
France has initiated a war crime investigation into the death of Arman Soldin, a renowned reporter from Agence France-Presse (AFP), who tragically lost his life while reporting in Ukraine. Anti-terror prosecutors confirmed the launch of the investigation, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Soldin, aged 32, was killed on Tuesday in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. He, along with his AFP colleagues, came under fire from Grad rockets while embedded with Ukrainian troops near Chasiv Yar. Tragically, Soldin succumbed to the attack, but fortunately, the other reporters accompanying him escaped unharmed, according to AFP sources.
The French authorities have entrusted the investigation to the OCLCH, a specialized unit that focuses on crimes against humanity and hate crimes. Their mandate is to meticulously examine the circumstances surrounding Soldin’s death, aiming to shed light on this grievous loss, as announced by the prosecutors leading the case.
Soldin’s passing marks the eleventh death of journalists, fixers, or media drivers since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over a year ago, as highlighted by advocacy groups concerned with press freedom and safety.
It was reported that this particular investigation constitutes the seventh war crimes inquiry involving French nationals in Ukraine since February 2022, with two of them specifically related to attacks on journalists.
Arman Soldin, a French citizen born in Sarajevo, began his career with AFP as an intern at their Rome bureau in 2015 before eventually being employed in London. He was among the first AFP journalists deployed to Ukraine following Russia’s incursion into the country in February 2022. Since September 2022, Soldin had been residing in Ukraine, frequently traveling to the front lines to report on the ongoing conflict.
The day before his tragic demise, Soldin shared a video on Twitter, capturing the dedicated efforts of Ukrainian doctors working to stabilize an injured soldier. Additionally, his social media posts included footage from the front lines in Bakhmut, where he documented the relentless shelling, as well as the aftermath of a critical bridge explosion within the city.
A week prior, Soldin and his team received recognition from an animal rescue group for their role in rescuing an injured hedgehog. Reportedly, they cared for the animal before releasing it back into the wild. Soldin described the hedgehog’s story as “unusually cute” in a Twitter thread, mentioning that it was found in Chasiv Yar, the very location where he would later meet his untimely fate.
Colleagues and officials have paid tribute to Soldin’s memory. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement expressing the administration’s condolences to Soldin’s family and loved ones. French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged Soldin’s commitment to uncovering the truth and informing the public about the realities of war. Macron further expressed the nation’s shared grief with Soldin’s loved ones and colleagues during this difficult time.
Daniel Leal, an AFP photojournalist, shared a poignant photograph of himself and Soldin on Twitter, accompanied by the words “Forever remembered. Forever loved,” encapsulating the lasting impact of their friendship and Soldin’s unwavering dedication to his craft.