Italian journalist killed in eastern Ukraine

By the Associated Press | May 25, 2014 | 9:05 AM EDT

A passport of Italian photojournalist, 30-year old Andrea Rocchelli, killed Saturday near Slovyansk, is photographed in Slovyansk, Ukraine, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Italy's foreign ministry says an Italian photojournalist has been killed in eastern Ukraine, where he was covering the conflict ahead of the presidential election. The ministry said in a statement that Andrea Rocchelli, 30, was killed Saturday in the area of Slovyansk, a hotbed of pro-Russia, anti-Kiev sentiment. It stressed that the journalist's body, taken to a hospital along with that of a Russian citizen, was awaiting official identification and that Rocchelli's family was arriving in Kiev later Sunday. (AP Photo/Pool)

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — An Italian photojournalist and his Russian interpreter have been killed in eastern Ukraine while covering fighting between government forces and pro-Russia insurgents, officials said Sunday.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said Andrea Rocchelli, 30, was killed Saturday in the area of Slovyansk, the flashpoint of some of the most intense battles in recent weeks.

Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini expressed condolences to Rocchelli's relatives and the family of interpreter Andrey Mironov.

The bodies of the Rocchelli and Mironov were taken to a hospital for official identification and Rocchelli's relatives were planning to travel to Ukraine on Sunday, the ministry said.

William Roguelon, a French photographer who was traveling with Rocchelli and Mironov, said in remarks broadcast by Russian television that they were hit by mortar fire as they were taking shelter in a roadside ditch. Roguelon was wounded in the shelling.

Insurgents in Slovyansk, who have engaged in daily fighting with government forces seeking to flush them out of the city, said that the journalists came under shelling from Ukrainian troops late Saturday, but that claim could not be independently confirmed.

In Kiev, Ukraine's Interior Ministry declined to provide details about what happened to Rocchelli and Mironov.

Mironov, 60, was also a human rights activist who served time in prison as a dissident when Russia was part of the Soviet Union. He was well- known and had friendly ties with many Moscow-based Western journalists.