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Journalist among dead in Ukraine protests

A protester is seen near a barricade of flames between police and demonstrators in Kiev. (AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki)

New York, February 19, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled by the murder of a journalist and reports that pro-government groups are targeting journalists covering nationwide protests in Ukraine. The demonstrations have left at least 26 people dead and several hundred injured, including journalists, according to news reports.

Unidentified masked men on Tuesday night brutally attacked Vyacheslav Veremiy, reporter for the daily newspaper Vesti, and his colleague, Aleksei Lymarenko, an IT staffer, while they were in a taxi after leaving work, according to news reports. The assailants threw Molotov cocktails at the car, dragged Veremiy, Lymarenko, and the driver out of it, and beat them with baseball bats, Vesti reported. Veremiy was shot in the chest.

Veremiy was treated at a local hospital for severe blood loss, but died early today, according to Igor Guzhva, Vesti's chief editor, and news reports. Vesti reported that Lymarenko sought treatment at a hospital for facial injuries and the cab driver for leg injuries.

"We condemn the brutal killing of Vyacheslav Veremiy, which underscores the risks journalists are facing in Ukraine," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "The authorities must hold his killers to account. Failure to do so will only embolden those groups that are reportedly already intimidating journalists covering the protests."

The attack came amid an escalation of the violence on Tuesday. Clashes between police and protesters began in November in Ukraine following President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to reverse his regime's course over association with the European Union. The demonstrations spread nationwide, news reports said.

The Kiev-based press freedom group Institute of Mass Information (IMI) reported today that at least 38 other journalists have been injured in Kiev and other cities since Tuesday. Many of the journalists said the anti-riot police unit Berkut, as well as organized and armed pro-government groups of men, known locally as "titushki," were the perpetrators of the attacks, according to IMI.

IMI estimates that since November at least 174 journalists have been attacked and suffered injuries from rubber bullets, gas pellets, and stun grenades while on assignment covering the protests.

Vesti reported that Veremiy had been injured while covering protests in Kiev in January. The journalist was wounded in his left eye and left arm when a stun grenade exploded near him, the reports said.

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