Television reporter killed after being hit by shrapnel in Ukraine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2014, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 1:27am

A Russian state television reporter was killed yesterday during a fierce battle in Ukraine's separatist east that put Kiev's tattered relations with Moscow under further strain.

The chief doctor at the main hospital in the rebel stronghold city of Lugansk said Russia's VGTRK media group reporter Igor Kornelyuk sustained severe stomach wounds after being hit by shrapnel from what appeared to be either a mine or a grenade.

"He was unconscious when he arrived and died on his way to the operating room," Dr Fedir Solyanyk said.

A Lugansk separatist spokesman told AFP by telephone that Kornelyuk and VGTRK sound technician Anton Voloshin were caught in the middle of a grenade launcher attack staged by Ukrainian forces in the Russian border region. Ukrainian security officials said that they would only comment after conducting a full investigation.

But Russia's foreign ministry immediately denounced the reporter's death as a "crime" committed by Ukrainian forces that it expected global media to condemn.

The Russian foreign ministry said the slain reporter's colleague, Voloshin, was currently missing.

The 10-week pro-Russian uprising has threatened the survival of the economically teetering ex-Soviet nation and put East-West relations under pressure not witnessed since the cold war. Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko (pictured) said on Monday he hoped to arrange a ceasefire once troops regain control of the Russian border and stop the flow of arms and gunmen into the conflict zone.

The 48-year-old confectionery tycoon promised to accomplish that uneasy goal by the weekend and then launch talks with peaceful separatists.

But a separatist leader in the Donetsk region - the epicentre of the continuing fighting - said talks with Poroshenko were not possible without Moscow's direct involvement.

"The time for bilateral negotiations has passed," Andriy Purgin told the Interfax news agency.