The photo in question depicts two Ukrainian soldiers carrying another — presumably, injured — one, as a bomb or mine explodes in the background. A child's carriage stands in front of the whole scene.
The photo has been taken by Dmitry Muravsky, an amateur photographer and a counselor to the press department of Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
The letter is an initiative of another Ukrainian reporter Max Levin. He works with Reuters, among other outlets, and has reported on the conflict in Ukraine since spring of 2014.
Levin says that the photo has been staged, for several reasons. First, the smoke is too dense and spectacular. A land mine does not create such spectacular cloud of smoke, according to Levin.
The soldiers are also staying too close to the explosion. Such explosion, Levin writes, would have killed all three of them. However, Muravsky insists none of the soldiers had been wounded.
Soldiers around the world also have a reflex, developed by long training, to fall down on the ground whenever something explodes. These soldiers, however, keep running as if nothing happened, Levin writes.
He also points out that the photo is too clear and not blurred, which is likely when shooting with hand-held camera. Making photos without artifacts is especially difficult considering Muravsky reportedly used a 400 mm objective.
Yefim Lukatsky, another correspondent who signed the letter, has added that there is more proof that the photo has been staged.
"Muravsky said initially that the photo has been taken using 400 mm objective. I contacted him and he said that there was a mistake, that he used 200 mm objective with 4x zoom."
Lukatsky says that, according to Muravsky's explanation, there were some 100 m between him and the soldiers and some additional 50 m between soldiers and the mine.
"It's a size of a football field. Any reporter who shot sports events, knows that a gatekeeper in a distant end of the field, taken on 200 mm objective takes only 1/20 of the shot. Muravsky said he only cropped the photo a little. He lied again," Lukatsky said, adding that every Muravsky's photo feature stones in the air that didn't fall down.
"You may be that lucky once. But not every time," he said.
Sergey Loyko, an author of book "Aeroport", based on real fights in Donetsk Airport, points out that the soldiers should have been first hit by shrapnel from the mine, and only then — by stones. By the time the stones reached the soldiers, all three should have been lying dead.
"A Ukrainian soldier Kostya Vyugin, asked me after he saw the photo: ‘Did they manage to sew the photographer back after the explosion?'", Loyko recalls.
The reporters demand Muravsky to show other photos taken during that day, but Muravsky insists he deleted them.
They state that using staged photos undermine the image of Ukrainian reporters and compromise the people's trust.
"If I were a reporter for Life News, or Komsomolskaya Pravda, I'd take this photo and say: ‘Here, look, Ukraine invents war that's not there'", says Loyko.
The reporter's open letter already has been called "un-patriotic" by Ukrainian bloggers, who insist that the professional reporters started it all because of "sudden success" of an amateur photographer.