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CPJ slams Ukrainian police for stalled probe into murder of journalist Sheremet

Pavlo Sheremet Photo from the video
CPJ slams Ukrainian police for stalled probe into murder of journalist Sheremet

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a report on the murder of Ukrainian Belarusian journalist Pavlo Sheremet. The report was published almost a year after the journalist was killed. It is called “Justice Denied: Ukraine comes up empty in probe of Pavel Sheremet’s murder” and emphasizes the lack of progress in the investigation.

Nearly a year after Sheremet’s death, the case seems to have gone cold. Critics blame authorities’ incompetence, negligence, or sabotage—or a combination of all three…Police have been slow to track down potential witnesses. It was only after the release in May of “Killing Pavel”—a documentary by the investigative reporting groups Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Slidstvo.Info—that police interviewed Igor Ustimenko, a former SBU agent who is the only person publicly identified so far as in the vicinity before and at the time the bomb was planted,” says the report.


The authors of the report come to a conclusion that Russian, as well as Belarusian representatives, could have been involved in the killing. Also, it could have been Ukrainian radical nationalists or Ukrainian authorities. The report describes Sheremet’s periods of work in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and assumes that he had enemies in each of the countries.

In particular, the report reminds that Sheremet founded the website Belarus Partisan known for its criticism of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the Belarusian government and that the Belarusian special services are suspected of murdering a close friend of Pavlo Sheremet, the operator Dmytro Zavadsky, in 2000. Supporters of Lukashenka then threatened Sheremet and his family.


As well, the report highlights that the Ukrainian police was reluctant to interview people who were closest to Sheremet, and thus could dispose of information to facilitate the investigation. His civil wife Olena Prytula said she was interviewed by the SBU 6 months after the murder, and Sheremet’s mother and daughter were interviewed a whole 9 months after.

The report also demands the EU to come with a firm statement calling on the Ukrainian authorities to swiftly bring all the perpetrators, including the mastermind, to justice.

The report also calls to raise the case of Sheremet with the Ukrainian authorities in bilateral discussions until a full investigation into his murder has been undertaken:

This should be a benchmark for measuring progress of ongoing reforms financed by the EU, including in the areas of justice and the rule of law, anti-corruption and the strengthening of Ukraine’s media.”

Pavlo Sheremet was killed On 20 July 2016. The incident happened in the center of Kyiv. The explosive device detonated in the car belonging to Olena Prytula, the head of the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper and partner wife of the killed journalist, making it unclear whom the attackers aimed for. The investigation is considering Sheremet’s professional activities as the main reason for the murder, but hasn’t revealed the organizers or implementers of the murder.

The journalist worked on Belarus and Russian TV. His work in Ukraine started in 2012. He collaborated with Channel 24, TVi, Radio Vesti and Ukrainska Pravda. At the last one, he had his own blog, the latest article on which is dated 17 June 2016. While his primary topic corruption in Ukraine, he also paid attention to Russian propaganda and interviewed important persons from different fields, among them American historian Timothy Snyder on Brexit, Nobel Prize laureate Svetlana Alekseevich, and Head of Ukrainian Police Khatiya Dekanoidze.


In the documentary “Killing Pavel,” journalists analyzed footage from surveillance cameras and determined that the explosives were placed under Sheremet’s car by a woman, who was covered by a man. Both were present near the site of the explosion on the morning of 20 July 2016.

Moreover, that night a red Mercedes and gray Skoda stood near Sheremet’s home. The driver of the latter, Ihor Ustymenko, turned out to be a former SBU employee. The Security Service informed that he wasn’t carrying out any official mission that night, and interviewed Ustymenko on 15 May.

The police admit they made mistakes in investigating the murder and agreed to further work with the journalists.

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