Award-winning American filmmaker, photographer, and journalist Brent Renaud was killed on Sunday in Ukraine while reporting in the city of Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv that has become a front line in the battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces. Two others traveling with Renaud at the time, Colombian-American photojournalist Juan Arredondo and a Ukrainian, were also wounded.
Precisely what happened remains unclear. After Arredondo was transported to a hospital in Kyiv, he said in a brief interview that the car he and Renaud were traveling in came under fire as they attempted to get to a bridge in order to film civilian refugees fleeing the area. “We crossed a checkpoint and they started shooting at us,” he said, “so the driver turned around and they kept shooting at us, the two of us, my friend Brent Renaud — he’s been shot and left behind.” A medic at the scene told the AFP that a Ukrainian who was in the car with the reporters was also wounded; a surgeon who tried to administer emergency medical care to Renaud said he died instantly from a gunshot wound to the neck.
Time said in a statement on Sunday that “in recent weeks, Brent was in the region working on a TIME Studios project focused on the global refugee crisis.”
“Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones,” the Time statement says, emphasizing that the organization was “devastated” over his death. “It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”
Renaud, 50, had worked in numerous conflict zones across his career, including Afghanistan and Iraq, and had collaborated with multiple news organizations, including the New York Times, Vice News, and NBC News. He and his brother, Craig Renaud, have won multiple awards for their films, including a Peabody for their 2014 documentary series, Last Chance High, about at-risk youth at a Chicago high school. Renaud was also a 2019 fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
One of Renaud’s colleagues, Christof Putzel, told CNN on Sunday that Renaud had rushed to Ukraine after the start of the war, which has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee the country. “Brent had this ability to go anywhere, get any story, listen and communicate what was happening to people that others wouldn’t otherwise see it,” Putzel said. “It is a devastating loss to journalism today.”
The initial report of Renaud’s death came from Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv, who said that the two journalists were fired upon by Russian forces, and released images of Renaud’s body on a stretcher, as well as his U.S. passport and a New York Times press ID he was wearing. In a statement on Sunday, the Times said, “We are deeply saddened to hear of Brent Renaud’s death. Brent was a talented filmmaker who had contributed to The New York Times over the years. Though he had contributed to The Times in the past (most recently in 2015), he was not on assignment for any desk at The Times in Ukraine. Early reports that he worked for Times circulated because he was wearing a Times press badge that had been issued for an assignment many years ago.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists also denounced the attack and said it was “shocked and saddened” to learn of Renaud’s death. “Whoever killed Renaud should be held to account,” CPJ said, adding that “Russian forces in Ukraine must stop all violence against journalists and other civilians at once.”
Renaud is the second journalist confirmed to have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24. A Ukrainian cameraman, 49-year-old Yevhenii Sakun, was killed on March 1 during the Russian bombardment of the a television transmission tower in Kyiv. As of Saturday, the United Nations had been able to confirm at least 1,581 civilian casualties in the country during the war, including at least 579 deaths — but the U.N. believes the actual numbers are likely much higher.