‘Brave and tenacious’ AFP journalist Arman Soldin killed in rocket fire in eastern Ukraine

By Helen Regan, CNN

A French journalist working for the international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) was killed by rocket fire near the embattled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.

Arman Soldin, 32, was AFP’s video coordinator in Ukraine and was killed in a rocket attack on the outskirts of the town of Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut, AFP announced on Twitter, citing colleagues who witnessed the incident.

“We are devastated to learn of the death of AFP video journalist Arman Soldin in eastern Ukraine today,” AFP said. “All of our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.”

Soldin was with four colleagues at the time of the attack, but the other journalists were not injured, the news agency said.

Their reporting team was with Ukrainian soldiers when they came under fire around 4:30pm local time on Tuesday, according to AFP.

Soldin, a French citizen with Bosnian origins, was an experienced reporter who had regularly traveled to the front lines, the news agency said. He had been AFP’s video coordinator there since September 2022 and covered the conflict from the early days of Russia’s invasion.

“Our journalists travel regularly to this area to report on clashes in the region, the epicenter of fighting in Ukraine for several months,” AFP said in its statement.

Soldin is one of the several known journalists killed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, including Fox News photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski and consultant Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, journalist and documentarian Brent Renaud, and photojournalist Maks Levin.

Born in Sarajevo, Arman was evacuated to France in 1992 as the Bosnian war broke out, and he told AFP in an interview last year that “stories about refugees affect me,” according to the agency’s obituary.

He joined AFP in 2015 in Rome and his first staff posting was in London later that year, according to the news agency.

Following news of his death, there was an outpouring of grief and condolences from his friends and colleagues.

“The whole agency is devastated by the loss of Arman,” said Fabrice Fries, CEO of AFP, according to the news agency. “His death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers faced by journalists on a daily basis when covering the conflict in Ukraine.”

Earlier this month Soldin kept his video camera rolling as he and his team of journalists came under rocket fire near the front line.

“Being caught under a rain of Grad yesterday with a bunch of trench-diggers is probably one of the worst things that I’ve experienced since being in Ukraine, with rockets exploding less than 50 meters away,” he wrote. “Pure terror.”

Colleagues who had worked with Soldin in Ukraine described him as a “brave and tenacious journalist” and “full of enthusiasm for life” in comments posted on Twitter.

One video posted in tribute showed him laughing and singing the 80s pop song “Forever Young” while driving with colleagues in April 2022.

In one of Soldin’s last Twitter threads, he posted a series of videos about rescuing a baby hedgehog that the team had found at the bottom of a crater from Russian shelling in Chasiv Yar. Soldin took the hedgehog back to base and hand-fed it back to health.

“Arman was the kind of guy who saved hurt hedgehogs in war zones. He was an incredible and vibrant personality and a great journalist. We miss him. We are mourning him. Rest in peace,” said Jonathan Brown, AFP’s deputy news editor for Moscow and Kyiv, on Twitter.

French President Emmanuel Macron mourned Soldin’s death, saying on Twitter: “We share the pain of his family and all his colleagues.”

“With courage, from the first hours of the conflict he was at the front to establish the facts. To inform us. We share the pain of his loved ones and all his colleagues.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya called Soldin a “remarkable journalist” who “paid with his life for his courage.”

“My condolences to his loved ones. Respect for all those who take enormous risks to speak the truth about the horrors of war in Ukraine,” he said.

In their obituary, AFP wrote that Soldin celebrated his 32nd birthday on March 21 from Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.

“A decent bottle had been opened for the occasion and a colleague had got his guitar out,” AFP quoted his colleague Antoine Lambroschini as saying.

“Arman had a delighted little smile on his face.”

CNN’s Xiaofei Xu, Duarte Mendonca and Jo Shelley contributed.

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