Be­yond in­com­pe­tence

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

Al­most a year has gone by since Be­larus­sian jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet was killed by a car bomb at­tack in the cen­ter of Kyiv dur­ing morn­ing rush hour on a bright July day. The po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his mur­der has come up with prac­ti­cally noth­ing.

The only find­ing of the of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Sheremet’s as­sas­si­na­tion is that it is con­nected to his ac­tiv­i­ties as a jour­nal­ist. That’s hardly a rev­e­la­tion, given that many jour­nal­ists have been killed in Ukraine since 1991 for do­ing their jobs.

Jour­nal­ists have made more progress than po­lice in their own, in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the crime.

A video called “Killing Pavel” is the work of the Slid­stvo.info in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism team and the Or­ga­nized Crime and Cor­rup­tion Re­port­ing Project, a Kyiv Post part­ner. The 49-minute doc­u­men­tary re­leased on May 10 re­veals that po­lice missed cru­cial clues, video ev­i­dence and failed to iden­tify and in­ter­view key wit­nesses.

More damn­ing, the in­ves­tiga­tive team, us­ing state-of-the-art video anal­y­sis tech­niques, un­cov­ered a very con­vinc­ing and trou­bling con­nec­tion be­tween Ukraine’s SBU state se­cu­rity ser­vice and the crime: A car with two men in­side spot­ted on CCTV video was parked nearby Sheremet’s house for at least three hours only sev­eral hours be­fore the mur­der. The car was traced to a man iden­ti­fied as an SBU of­fi­cer as re­cently as 2014. He was in­ter­viewed by the jour­nal­ists. His story was inconsiste­nt and ridicu­lous. He re­fused to iden­tify a man seen with him that same night. Then he stopped talk­ing with jour­nal­ists.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion shows more than the usual in­com­pe­tence. It shows high-level at­tempts to ob­struct the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and of­fi­cial in­dif­fer­ence.

The pres­i­dent, prose­cu­tor gen­eral, SBU head and in­te­rior min­is­ter have all re­fused to give in­ter­views and gen­er­ally say as lit­tle as pos­si­ble about Sheremet’s as­sas­si­na­tion.

That’s un­ac­cept­able. Ukraini­ans and their friends abroad must help hold au­thor­i­ties to ac­count. If they don’t, the killing of another top jour­nal­ist in Ukraine will go un­solved as sus­pi­cion grows that au­thor­i­ties sanc­tion the as­sas­si­na­tion of jour­nal­ists.

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