“We want the truth. We want to know what happened and we hope that those responsible will be found and justice will be done. That’s what Pierre would want, so we have to do it.” In a voice steeped in emotion, Nicolas Zakrzewski shows his determination. On May 19, together with his brother Grégoire, he welcomed the “Additional Research” team to his home in the suburbs of Dublin (Ireland). Both are speaking in French media for the first time since the death of their older brother, Pierre Zakrzewski, a 55-year-old Franco-Irish cameraman who worked for the Fox News channel, who was murdered in Ukraine on March 14.
He was the first French journalist to be murdered in Ukraine. On Monday, May 30, a colleague from BFMTV, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, died there during a message about a humanitarian convoy.
Pierre Zakrzewski was a passionate and experienced cameraman, who has captured many conflicts: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. “A model” for his brothers, who describe a man “honest, human and funny” who especially wanted “to tell the impact of war on people through his images”. However, “He was careful, says Gregory. You don’t spend thirty years in these dangerous places without being careful.”
From Ukraine, where he arrived in early February, Pierre regularly sent reassuring text messages to his family. “He didn’t tell us, but I think he was concerned”continues this 50-year-old architect who lives in Dublin.
At that moment, troops from Moscow stood at the gates of Kiev. “It was a very difficult battlefield because there was no real front line, he makes clear. The Russians were everywhere, the Ukrainians were everywhere, so the situation was complicated to manage.”
When the tragedy occurs, on March 14, Pierre is on assignment in northwestern Kiev, according to a Ukrainian judicial source questioned by “Additional Investigation”, in the small town of Moshchun, a high-risk area. “We know he was in the car with Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall and their Ukrainian fixer Oleksandra. says Gregory. There was shell or rocket fire, no bullets, and they were all dead except for Benjamin Hall, who was seriously wounded.” Pierre would have died instantly, outside the car.
The news of his death reaches the whole family the next day. His wife, Michelle, was the first to be notified, followed by his five siblings. “I never want to experience such a moment again”Nicholas breathes. “It was a huge shock for the whole family, adds this 49-year-old computer scientist. We knew his job was dangerous.”
“Intellectually, yes, we thought something might happen to him. But you can never be ready to hear of your brother’s death.”Nicholas Zakrzewskic
to “Further research”
The body’s repatriation, managed by the teams at his employer, Fox News, will take five days. Pierre Zakrzewski is buried in Ireland, the country where he grew up. The media around the world are reporting his tragic death. “It really surprised usNicholas slips. The day after his death, I stopped at a gas station to get gas, there were newspapers and his photo of his face was everywhere. It worries me.”
Since then, this close family has wanted to know the exact circumstances of Pierre’s death. Critical questions remain unanswered. Were Pierre and his colleagues identified as journalists? Who fired and were they deliberately targeted? They therefore welcomed with hope the opening of a war crimes investigation, on March 16, by the French National Prosecutor’s Office for Counter-Terrorism (Pnat). “We are very happy with this decision by the French authorities. It is important to know how it all went, for Pierre and for all reporters who take risks”Gregory insists.
“Journalists need to be protected and the only way when such tragedies happen is to announce that there are consequences, that a judicial system will follow and get the truth.”Nicholas Zakrzewskic
to “Further research”
Due to the international dimension of the investigation, which must be conducted in a country at war, the two brothers prepare for a procedure that will take years.
Since the start of the conflict, eight journalists have been killed in Ukraine, now the most dangerous country for media professionals. After the death of BFMTV journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, the National Prosecutor’s Office for Counterterrorism also opened an investigation into war crimes.