Ex-BBC journalist killed on front line in Ukraine

time:2023-06-09 00:24:05 source:The Washington Post

Former BBC News Ukraine journalist Oleksandr Bondarenko has been killed on duty on the front line in Ukraine.

He volunteered for Ukraine's territorial defence at the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, working as a communications expert and media trainer and then becoming part of the military.

Details of how he was killed in action are not yet known.

Close friends said only that "death caught up with him in a battle".

Friends, former BBC colleagues and Ukraine's wider media community paid tributes to a talented journalist who went on to be a successful communications professional.

Known as Sasha or Sashko, Bondarenko was originally from Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

He worked for the BBC's Ukrainian Service from 2007 to 2011 as a news reporter, presenter and editor of radio programmes broadcast from Kyiv. He left the BBC to work for other media organisations.

At the start of the war he was in charge of special projects for leading Ukrainian communications agency, RMA, whose staff paid tribute to his intelligence, humour and voice.

He was one of many thousands of Ukrainians who have left their civilian jobs across all walks of life to defend their country from the Russian invasion.

Among well-known Ukrainians who enlisted were members of one of Ukraine's top rock bands, Antytila, who became army medics, and broadcasters Pavlo Kazarin and Yurii Matsarskyi.

A number of journalists have lost their lives reporting on the war too. A Ukrainian fixer working with an Italian reporter was killed this week as they came under fire near the southern city Kherson.

Vasyl Samokhvalov of RMA paid tribute to Sasha Bondarenko as a man who volunteered on day one: "A human with a will of steel. A human with the clearest motivation. A human with the best music playlist."

The former head of the BBC's Ukrainian Service, Maciek Bernatt-Reszczynski, said the corporation was extremely lucky to have him on the Kyiv team: "It was always new challenges with this extraordinary man. Including the last, heroic one, to defend his country from aggression."

Bondarenko graduated from Luhansk teacher-training college and started his career in journalism at a local radio station in the east of Ukraine, before working for leading Ukrainian TV channels and and then the BBC's Ukrainian Service.

"I look at our photos together and can't stop crying even though I can only remember our carefree days in the Kyiv office and how we laughed together," said Marta Shokalo, BBC Ukraine's editor-in-chief.

He went on to work as a TV reporter, covering the mass Maidan anti-government protests in Kyiv in 2013-14 and later Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

As a native of eastern Ukraine his insight of the complexities of Ukraine's relationship with Russia was seen as especially valuable.

A keen athlete, he achieved a long-held ambition of swimming the Bosphorus. His last photo published on Facebook was captioned: "Somewhere in the Kharkiv woods."

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