PARIS - AFP held a memorial ceremony at its Paris headquarters Thursday for journalist Arman Soldin, killed last month in Ukraine at 32, and provided details of how he was killed.
"Since the announcement of Arman's death on May 9, the emotion has not subsided. I even have the feeling it has grown as we all become aware of Arman's extremely endearing and sunny personality," said AFP chairman Fabrice Fries.
Soldin, AFP's video coordinator in Ukraine, was killed in a rocket attack in the east of the country.
His death sparked an outpouring of sympathy and tributes across the world.
"Arman had the rare ability to find moments of life and even poetry amid the horror," France's Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said at the ceremony.
AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd gave details of the circumstances of his death in an email to employees.
Soldin was part of a team of AFP reporters embedded with Ukrainian soldiers near the besieged city of Bakhmut, the epicentre of recent fighting and targeted daily by Russian forces.
They were walking back to their car near the village of Chasiv Yar when they were targeted by a series of Grad rockets that grew increasingly close.
A "warhead landed very close to Arman and he died almost instantly," Chetwynd wrote.
"A soldier several metres in front of him managed to dive safely into a nearby trench. The rest of the reporting team were all within 20 or 30 metres of the strike and managed to throw themselves to the ground as per their training. They all escaped unhurt," he added.
- 'Serious, focused' -
Chetwynd emphasised that all of the team were wearing flak jackets and helmets, and were trained to identify the noise of incoming artillery and rockets, and how to take evasive action, as they had done several times that day.
He confirmed that AFP would be gradually returning to frontline reporting in Ukraine next week and is investigating how best to adapt to the changing situation on the ground.
But he added: "We assume a certain level of risk by choosing to report on this conflict, as we have done with conflicts throughout history."
One of the reporting team, Emmanuel Peuchot, gave a blow-by-blow account of the experience at the ceremony.
"No, Arman was not a madman who took reckless risks," Peuchot said.
"On the ground, Arman was always serious, focused and always aware of the risks like all of us. Yes, Arman filmed as close as possible, because we don't film war from far away," he added.
Soldin's colleagues were joined at the ceremony by Ukraine's ambassador to France and representatives of other media, as well as the parents of Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, a French journalist killed in Ukraine last year, also at the age of 32.
France has launched a war crimes investigation into Soldin's death.
At least 11 journalists have been killed in Ukraine since Russia's invasion on February 24, 2022, according to figures from Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.