| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

France awards AFP journalist Arman Soldin, killed in Ukraine, its highest order of merit

Soldin, AFP’s video coordinator in Ukraine, was killed in a rocket attack in eastern Ukraine on May 9, more than a year after the Russian invasion began. He was 32.

His death sparked an outpouring of sympathy and tributes from across the world.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron hailed Soldin’s “bravery” in a letter sent to AFP in May.

“Through his strength of character, his journey and his drive, Arman Soldin embodied your editorial staff’s passion — a passion to convey the truth, tell stories and gather testimonies. It was a passion for a cause: the duty to inform,” he said.

Soldin was given the chevalier de la Légion d’honneur with effect from June 28, 2023 by a presidential decree issued on Thursday.

“We are moved and touched by this award for Arman,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global news director. “It honours his superb journalism and helps to keep his memory alive.”

Born in Sarajevo, Soldin was a French national who said he was drawn to telling stories of people displaced by fighting, stemming from his family’s experience fleeing conflict.

As an infant, he fled fighting in Bosnia with his family, taking a humanitarian flight to France on April 25, 2.

A French, English and Italian speaker, Soldin studied in London, Lyon and Sarajevo before securing an internship at AFP’s Rome bureau in 2015.

That same year, he was hired by AFP in London, where he also became a UK sports correspondent for the French premium TV channel Canal+ from 2019.

After covering the first lethal months of Europe’s Covid-19 epidemic in Italy, he volunteered to be part of the first AFP team to be sent to Ukraine.

Hailed for his empathy

Widely praised for his empathy, his courage and his professionalism, Soldin’s final stories depicted both the intensity of the fighting in Ukraine and the threat of death hanging over people outside the headlines.

In bomb-scarred Siversk, he followed Oleksandr, a former welder who became one of the war’s unsung heroes by delivering bread on a puttering moped to isolated elderly people near the front line.

And in the Donbas, he visited a field hospital providing first aid to wounded Ukrainian soldiers during the night.

Soldin joined a team of AFP reporters who were embedded with Ukrainian soldiers near the besieged city of Bakhmut, which was then an epicentre of fighting and targeted daily by Russian forces.

They were walking back to their car near the village of Chasiv Yar on May 9 when they came under fire by Grad rockets. The rest of the AFP team survived unharmed.

Soldin died “with his camera in his hand”, AFP’s Emmanuel Peuchot said.

French prosecutors announced they had opened a war crimes investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

At least 17 journalists and media workers have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists.


  • AFP