Wednesday

28th Sep 2016

EU and US to investigate shock murder of Ukraine journalist

  • Journalists and activists from around Europe and in the US paid tribute to Sheremet on Wednesday (Photo: Okras)

EU and US experts are to take part in the investigation of a murder of a prominent journalist in Ukraine for the sake of transparency, Ukrainian authorities have said.

The international participants were invited on the order of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday (20 July), shortly after a car bomb killed Pavel Sheremet, an award-winning investigative reporter, in Kiev city centre.

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Khatiya Dekanoidze, the head of Ukraine’s national police, later told press she had already met with forensic experts from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to create a special task force.

The killing caused shock in Ukraine and immediately reverberated in Brussels and in Washington.

The EU foreign service said “a swift and transparent investigation must be carried out to bring those responsible for this crime to justice”.

A spokesman for the US State Department voiced “support of a full and impartial investigation that will bring those responsible to justice”.

International NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the OSCE, a Vienna-based international institute, also called for a transparent probe.

“This attack on a journalist is a heinous crime and the ultimate violation of the freedom to expression. Pavel Sheremet's killing must be thoroughly, impartially and independently investigated”, Amnesty’s Denis Krivosheev said.

Sheremet was a Belarusian-born journalist who last worked for Ukrainska Pravda, an investigative website that published damning articles both about the Ukrainian authorities and about Russia’s invasion of east Ukraine.

His latest blog posts had covered corruption by Ukrainian oligarchs and crimes by Ukrainian volunteer battalions.

His previous work had also seen him face beatings and death threats in Belarus and in Russia, which he fled for Ukraine amid fears for his safety.

He had won prizes for his work from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based NGO, and from the OSCE.

Mustafa Nayem, a former Ukrainska Pravda reporter who later joined Poroshenko’s bloc as an MP, said: “The last thing we need right now is pomp. Now is not the time for moral grave-robbing”.

Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, said: “Sheremet was imprisoned in Belarus, was persecuted and fired in Russia, and he was being followed in Ukraine”.

The murder saw both Kiev and Moscow trade thinly veiled accusations on Wednesday.

Poroshenko said on TV that “we won’t allow anyone to open a second front within the country”, in a hint that the killing could be the work of Russian services or their agents.

“It seems this was an act done with the intention of destabilising the situation in the country. In the conditions of war and aggression, I am not excluding the possibility of some foreign interest here”, he added.

Zoryan Shkiryak, an interior ministry aide, also said that one hypothesis was “involvement of Russian special services”.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "The murder of a Russian citizen and journalist in Ukraine is a very serious cause for concern in the Kremlin."

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: “The incumbent Ukrainian government, supported by its Euro-Atlantic patrons for its purportedly successful democratic reforms, did not manage to protect him”.

Ukraine and Russia have a history of murders of troublesome reporters whose killers are never brought to justice.

In April last year, Oles Buzyna, a pro-Russian journalist, was shot dead outside his home in Kiev in what authorities indicated was a false-flag Russian operation designed to discredit the pro-Western government.

Ukraine’s first pro-Western revolt, the Orange Revolution, was prompted by the murder of Ukrainska Pravda co-founder Georgiy Gongadze in 2000.

The country’s former pro-Russian president, Leonid Kuchma, was accused of ordering the killing, but the accusation was never proved.

Ukrainian courts in 2012 instead convicted a former police chief of the crime.

Gongadze’s decapitated body was not buried until March this year. His head was never found.

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