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France appoints magistrates in Zakrzewski death probe

France has appointed investigating magistrates to run a war crimes probe into the death of French-Irish Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski who was killed covering the war in Ukraine, a judicial source has said.

The move marks a new stage in the investigation which had previously been run by anti-terror prosecutors with a view to possibly bringing charges of causing “deliberate harm to a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack against a civilian who was not taking part in hostilities”.

French prosecutors routinely open cases into the violent deaths of citizens overseas.

Mr Zakrzewski, 55, died in March 2022, only weeks after Russia attacked Ukraine, in Horenka, northeast of the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova also died and Fox correspondent Benjamin Hall was wounded when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire, according to Fox News.

Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova working in Ukraine with reporter Trey Yingst

The French investigation aims to identify who fired at the vehicle and under what exact circumstances.

Mr Zakrzewski was an experienced war zone cameraman who had previously covered conflicts for the US network in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

France has opened ten official probes into suspected war crimes against French nationals since Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022.

Three of them concern journalists.

Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, working for French broadcaster BFMTV, died in May 2022 under artillery fire as he covered a humanitarian mission in eastern Ukraine.

In May 2023, AFP’s video coordinator in Ukraine, Arman Soldin, was killed during a Russian attack near the town of Bakhmut which Russia seized after months of brutal battles.

The Zakrzewski case is the first to be taken over by investigating magistrates.

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