A year later, no progress in Sheremet’s mur­der

Kyiv Post - - National - BY OLGA RUDENKO [email protected]­POST.COM

A year after lead­ing jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet was as­sas­si­nated in a car bomb­ing in Kyiv, the of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion has drawn a blank.

The Be­laru­sian jour­nal­ist, who had lived and worked in Ukraine for years, was killed in a hor­ri­fy­ing blast early on July 20 as he was driv­ing to work as host of a ra­dio show.

De­spite the usual of­fi­cial pledge to solve the case quickly, no one has been ar­rested and no progress has been re­ported. Jour­nal­ists sus­pect in­com­pe­tence, or worse, a cover-up.

The fail­ure of the au­thor­i­ties to prop­erly in­ves­ti­gate the case was high­lighted again in a spe­cial re­port on the Sheremet case re­leased on July 12 by the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, an in­ter­na­tional me­dia ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion.

After dis­cussing the case with Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko and other top of­fi­cials, CPJ of­fi­cials said it was hard to fig­ure out who was lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“There is a big de­gree of con­fu­sion in who’s do­ing what,” said Nina Og­ni­anova, Europe and Cen­tral Asia Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor with CPJ.

“Ev­ery time we asked, we were given a dif­fer­ent name,” said Christo­pher Miller, a Kyiv-based jour­nal­ist and a former Kyiv Post re­porter, who au­thored the re­port.

Fi­nally, they were told Dmytro Storozhuk, the deputy head of Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice, is in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

On July 11, nearly a year after the mur­der, Poroshenko agreed to in­vite in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tors to work on the case.

1 year later

Im­me­di­ately after her fa­ther was mur­dered, El­iza­veta Sheremet thought that at least the peo­ple who car­ried out the killing would be found.

“But a whole year’s passed,” she says and shrugs. “It’s a very long time. It’s much harder to find them now.”

A 21-year-old re­cent col­lege grad­u­ate liv­ing in Mos­cow, she talked to her fa­ther the day be­fore the mur­der. Later that week he was to fly to Mos­cow for her brother’s birth­day.

But as he was driv­ing to host his morn­ing show on Ra­dio Vesti on July 20, a bomb un­der­neath the driver’s seat of the car det­o­nated. CCTV footage later showed that the bomb had been planted the night be­fore by an uniden­ti­fied woman ac­com­pa­nied by a man.

The car be­longed to Sheremet’s part­ner, Olena Pry­tula, the co-founder and owner of Ukrain­ska Pravda, a pop­u­lar on­line news pub­li­ca­tion, where Sheremet also worked. That prompted spec­u­la­tion that Pry­tula was the real tar­get or that the mur­der was a way to in­tim­i­date her and Ukrain­ska Pravda.

The au­thor­i­ties said they were fo­cus­ing on sev­eral lines of in­ves­ti­ga­tion, sug­gest­ing that the mur­der was or­dered by some­one in Ukraine, Rus­sia, or Be­larus, and a num­ber of pos­si­ble mo­tives, in­clud­ing Sheremet’s work, pri­vate life, and fi­nan­cial is­sues.

Jour­nal­ists step in

“Killing Pavel,” a film pro­duced by the jour­nal­ists of Or­ga­nized Crime and Cor­rup­tion Re­port­ing Project, a Kyiv Post part­ner, and Slid­stvo.info, and re­leased in May, found sev­eral wit­nesses that were never con­tacted by in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

One of them was Ihor Usty­menko, a former of­fi­cer of the Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine, who spent sev­eral hours loi­ter­ing near Sheremet’s car shortly be­fore the mur­der. He was brought in for ques­tion­ing.

The doc­u­men­tary’s find­ings sug­gest that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been botched. And while it seemed at first that the new rev­e­la­tions could rekin­dle the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, hope dis­solved again as weeks passed with­out progress.

Key re­port

Fresh im­pe­tus to in­ves­ti­ga­tors might come with the re­lease of the 26-page re­port on the Sheremet case by the CPJ on July 12.

Sev­eral board mem­bers came to Kyiv to high­light the re­port’s re­lease and to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with Poroshenko, the Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice, Ukraine’s SBU se­cu­rity ser­vice, and the Na­tional Po­lice.

But a series of high-of­fice meet­ings left more con­fu­sion than clar­ity in the case. Sev­eral peo­ple in the meet­ings told the Kyiv Post that they strug­gled to fig­ure out who ex­actly was in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion or how far it got.

Still, CPJ Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Joel Si­mon said that the meet­ings left him a bit more re­as­sured about the fu­ture of the case than be­fore, de­spite the past fail­ures of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I don’t think any­one is happy,” Si­mon said. “We don’t have any sus­pects or leads. We don’t even have any vis­i­ble progress.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, the top of­fi­cials once again ex­pressed com­mit­ment to solv­ing the case, but also ac­knowl­edged that mis­takes had been made dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We have to be op­ti­mistic, be­cause what choice do we have?” Si­mon said.

Jus­tice ex­pected

On the evening of July 11, the late jour­nal­ist’s mother Lyud­mila Sheremet, along with his daugh­ter El­iza­veta, came to lay flow­ers on the in­ter­sec­tion of Ivana Franka and Bo­hdana Kh­mel­nyt­skoho Streets, where Sheremet’s car ex­ploded.

Peo­ple and cars were pass­ing by as the two women placed white flow­ers next to a framed por­trait of their late son and fa­ther.

“Of course, I want to know who did this to my son,” Lyud­mila Sheremet said. “But it is Ukraine’s lead­er­ship that needs this in­ves­ti­ga­tion the most. They need to show that they can pro­tect their peo­ple.”

A photo of as­sas­si­nated jour­nal­ist Pavel Sheremet is at the site of mur­der, on the in­ter­sec­tion of Ivana Franka and Bo­hdana Kh­mel­nyt­skoho streets in Kyiv. He was killed on July 20, 2016. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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