Irish journalist killed in Ukraine to be buried as gardaí assist in war crimes inquiry

Pierre Zakrzewski and colleague died when car hit by Russian shelling outside Kyiv

Gardaí are assisting their French colleagues in an investigation into the death in Ukraine of journalist Pierre Zakrzewski whose funeral takes place on Tuesday.

Mr Zakrzewski, who was from Leopardstown in south Dublin, was killed when his car was hit by Russian shelling outside Kyiv on March 14th. He was working as a cameraman for the American channel Fox News.

His colleague, producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova, was also killed and Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall was severely injured.

Mr Zakrzewski (55) will be buried following a funeral Mass at 10am on Tuesday morning. His body was returned to his family in Dublin last week.

READ MORE

A postmortem has taken place in Ireland and the results are due to be shared with French prosecutors.

The journalist held both Irish and French citizenship. The investigation into his death is being led by France with the Garda providing a supporting role. For now this support is likely to be confined to the sharing of documents, including those related to the postmortem.

French investigation

Unlike in Ireland, French authorities have the power to investigate and prosecute the deaths of its citizens abroad, as was the case in the investigation into the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier in Cork.

The French investigation is being led by the national counter-terrorism prosecutor's office known as PNAT and the central office for the fight against crimes against humanity, genocides and war crimes (OCLCH), which is a division of the French National Police.

The matter is being treated as a war crimes investigation. PNAT has said the investigation will examine whether Mr Zakrzewski was the victim of a “wilful attack on the life of a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack against a civilian who does not participate directly in the hostilities”.

Five journalists, two from Ukraine and three from overseas, have been killed in Ukraine since the war started over a month ago.

Direct testimony

An inquest is due to be held in Ireland into Mr Zakrzewski’s death but a date has yet to be set.

The coroner may seek to hear evidence from people who witnessed his killing or who were in Ukraine at the time, either from direct testimony in person or via statements.

It is not unusual for Irish coroners to hold inquests into the deaths of Irish citizens abroad in unnatural circumstances, though it can be difficult to get statements from individuals abroad.

"An Garda Síochána is currently liaising with French authorities who have opened an investigation into possible war crimes as a result of the death of Mr Pierre Zakrzewski," a Garda spokesman said.

The journalist was born to a French mother and Polish father and grew up in south Dublin where he attended St Conleth’s College and UCD.

He was married to a former BBC journalist and covered conflicts in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times