“Sadness and emotion”, writes Gérard Larcher; “All my thoughts to his family, loved ones and colleagues”, shares François Hollande; “War and its procession of horrors”, for Jean-Luc Mélenchon … The reactions of politicians of all stripes were numerous Monday evening after the announcement of the death of the French journalist in Ukraine, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, 32 year. The young man was hit by “shrapnel while he was following a humanitarian operation”, said his editorial staff, BFMTV, shortly after the announcement of the journalist’s death on Twitter by Emmanuel Macron.

The head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, clarified in a tweet that the reporter had been “killed by a Russian bombardment on a humanitarian operation” and condemned a “double crime which targets a humanitarian convoy and a journalist”. She also told AFP that she had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to do everything possible so that the Ukrainian authorities help us” and “allow the return” of the journalist’s body “to his family as soon as possible”.

In a message posted on the Telegram network, the governor of the Lugansk region claimed that Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was hit in the neck while he was wearing a helmet. This was the second mission to Ukraine for the videographer, who had worked for the news channel for six years.

The National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat) immediately announced the opening of a war crimes investigation after the death of Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff. The flagrancy investigation entrusted to the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes (OCLCH) also relates to “the injuries suffered by his colleague Maxime Brandstaetter”, present with him during the report, said the Pnat.

“The investigation is open on counts of intentional attacks on the life of a person protected by the international law of armed conflict, deliberate attacks against persons not directly taking part in the conflicts and deliberate attacks against personnel and vehicles employed as part of a humanitarian aid mission”, detailed the anti-terrorist prosecution.

French justice can only open an investigation for acts committed outside French territory if a victim is French, if the author of the alleged war crime is French or if the author of the offense has his habitual residence on the French soil.

In a press release published late Monday afternoon, after the official announcement of his death by the President of the Republic, the editorial staff of BFMTV and more broadly the Altice Media group shared their “tremendous pain”.

“The Altice media group and the editorial staff of BFMTV share the pain of his family and loved ones. This tragic event reminds us of the dangers incurred by all journalists who have been reporting this conflict at the risk of their lives for more than three months now”, add the text.

“Frédéric was not a hothead. He weighed every minute of his mission”, declared, visibly moved, Marc-Olivier Fogiel, general manager of BFMTV, on the set of the channel. The three members of the team “exchanged like every morning (to assess the risks, editor’s note): Oksana and Frédéric felt that the mission was secure enough to be able to go there. Maxime had more questions, as he could have had it the day before or the next day. But (…) that’s also a reporting team, they are very close-knit people, they decided to go there, “explained the boss of BFMTV.

“The first reaction (from his mother, on the phone, editor’s note) was to ask how Maxime and the fixer were doing. She knew what her son’s job was (…) with a form of pride”, a-t- he concluded.

“We strongly condemn this assassination. The list of Russian crimes against media professionals in Ukraine continues to grow,” Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter on Monday.

According to this official, “the Russian army bombarded a vehicle which was to evacuate civilians from the war zone, near Severodonetsk”. “The armored truck was not hit directly but shards went through the armored windshield. A shard hit Frédéric,” said Patrick Sauce, senior reporter for the news channel. “Maxime was in the back, he was injured in the leg. Oksana Leuta, the Ukrainian fixer-translator is fine,” added the journalist.

In an article published by the Russian press agency TASS, and shared by a journalist from Nice-Matin, the Kremlin denies the quality of journalist of Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff. According to Andrei Marochko, an officer of the People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) quoted in the article, “it is unlikely” that the reporter “is related to journalism”. “We do not exclude that he delivered weapons and ammunition to the positions of the armed forces, he adds. He can be qualified as a foreign mercenary”, considering that he delivered “ammunition allowing to kill civilians” .

However, images of his Ukrainian press card which allowed him to cover the war as a journalist were broadcast on social networks. Like photos of the vehicle he was in, clearly identifiable as a humanitarian transport.

Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, at least eight journalists have died in the field in the exercise of their profession, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders.

At least five other investigations for acts committed against French nationals in Ukraine have been opened since the start of the war by the crimes against humanity and war crimes unit of the Pnat. A first investigation was opened after the death of the Franco-Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski on March 14 in Horenka, near kyiv.

Then three others were opened for acts committed in Mariupol (southern Ukraine) between February 25 and March 16, in Gostomel (kyiv region) between March 1 and 12 and Cherniguiv (north) since March 24 February, had detailed the Pnat. A fifth investigation concerns a Frenchman injured in Borodianka and Velykyi Lis, near kyiv between March 26 and April 7.