Zelensky mourns death of Brent Renaud, U.S. journalist killed in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has published an open letter to the family of Brent Renaud, a U.S. journalist and filmmaker who police said was killed by a Russian attack in Irpin, Ukraine, a suburb of Kyiv, on Sunday.

"It is with deep sadness that I am writing to extend my heartfelt condolences to you on the tragic loss of your beloved son and brother," Zelensky wrote in a letter posted to Twitter on Monday. “A talented and brave journalist, Brent lost his life while documenting human tragedy, devastation and suffering of the millions of Ukrainians. With all his courage and determination, he travelled to the most dangerous war zones to film the unprecedented ruthlessness and evil, also inflicted upon our nation by the aggressor state.

"The people of Ukraine, who are fighting against the Russian regime to defend their homeland and democracy in the world, are mourning with you,” Zelensky continued. “We are thankful to Brent for his professionalism and commitment to the values of compassion, ethics and justice.

“May Brent’s life, service and sacrifice inspire generations of people all around the world to stand up [and] fight for the forces of light against forces of darkness,” he added.

Renaud, 50, was working on a video project on refugees for Time magazine with another American journalist, Juan Arredondo, when Arredondo said the car they were traveling in came under fire from Russian forces.

“We are devastated by the loss of Brent Renaud,” Time magazine said in a statement. “Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones. It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”

Arredondo, a filmmaker who is also an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School, was wounded but survived.

While being treated at a hospital, Arredondo said that Renaud had been shot in the neck and that the two became separated.

“He’s been shot and left behind,” Arredondo said, unaware of Renaud’s death.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and Brent Renaud
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and Brent Renaud. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, Todd Williamson/Invision for IDA/AP Images)

Renaud’s killing has inspired an outpouring of tributes from fellow journalists — and calls from press organizations for it to be investigated as a war crime.

“This kind of attack is totally unacceptable, and is a violation of international law,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement. “Russian forces in Ukraine must stop all violence against journalists and other civilians at once, and whoever killed Renaud should be held to account.”

The National Press Club called Renaud’s death a “tragic reminder of the costs and stakes for journalists covering war and attacks on civilians.”

“That so many journalists — local and foreign, freelancer and staffer — are putting their health, lives and livelihoods on the line in order to cover the human costs of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a reminder to the world of why a free and independent press is so important and worthy of protection and support,” the National Press Club said. “Under international humanitarian law, journalists are noncombatants. We call for an investigation into the killing of Brent Renaud as a possible war crime.”

According to the United Nations, at least 636 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Feb. 24, when Russia's military invasion began. Renaud was the first known U.S. journalist — and possibly the first American — to have been killed in the war.

Also on Monday, Fox News said that network correspondent Benjamin Hall was hospitalized for injuries he sustained while reporting outside Kyiv.

“We have a minimal level of details right now. But Ben is hospitalized and our teams on the ground are working to gather additional information as the situation quickly unfolds,” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott wrote in a note to staff, which was read on air by anchor John Roberts. “The safety of our entire team of journalists in Ukraine and the surrounding regions is our top priority and of the utmost importance.”