KEY POINTS

  • The RSF said Levin and his friend could have been killed by soldiers from Russia's 106th airborne division or a special forces unit
  • Investigators said Levin's body was found with three bullet holes
  • The RSF said that Levin could have been executed by Russians after interrogation

Russian soldiers deliberately tortured and executed a Ukrainian journalist in “cold blood,” according to a recent investigation.

Maks Levin, a Ukrainian journalist who worked with Western news outlets such as Reuters and BBC, first disappeared on March 13 while he was covering Russia’s attack on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. His body was found in a forest north of the capital on April 1.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a pro-journalist and free speech non-government organization, said it sent two investigators to Ukraine to investigate Levin’s death from May 24 to June 3.

In an RSF report, the investigators said they found several bullets and cartridge casings at the scene, along with the identity papers of Chernyshov, a friend and soldier who was accompanying Levin. Additionally, the organization identified 14 bullet impacts in his car.

The RSF also said it found several items with possible DNA traces that could attest to the presence of Russian soldiers possibly belonging to Russia’s 106th airborne division or a special forces unit within the vicinity of where Levin and his friend were killed. They located a bullet next to the spot where Levin’s corpse was found.

The investigators noted that Chernyshov’s body was found lying face down on the ground. Much of his body had been burned. In contrast, Levin was found lying on his back. While there were no burn marks, investigators found three bullet holes: one in the chest and two in the head.

“The evidence gathered by RSF indicates that the Ukrainian photo-journalist Maks Levin and the friend who was with him were executed in cold blood by Russian forces, probably after being interrogated and tortured, on the day they went missing, 13 March 2022,” the report said.

While the events that led to their deaths have not yet been confirmed, the RSF presented two theories. The first theory suggested that Chernyshov and Levin could have been gunned down in Russian-occupied territory. Another theory suggested that both of them were taken for interrogation, separately, in hopes of obtaining information about Ukrainian positions. Both were later executed following the interrogation.

Fighters of Ukraine's territorial defense unit that supports the regular army take part in an exercise near the town of Bucha on June 17, 2022
Fighters of Ukraine's territorial defense unit that supports the regular army take part in an exercise near the town of Bucha on June 17, 2022 AFP / Sergei SUPINSKY
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