A year after the main journalist Pavel Sheremet was assassinated in an attack on a car bomb in Kiev, the official investigation left a vacuum.
The Belarusian journalist, who had lived and worked in Ukraine for years, was killed in a horrible explosion in early July 20 while driving to work as a radio show host.
Despite the usual official commitment to quickly resolve the case, no one has been arrested and no progress has been reported. Journalists suspect that incompetence, or worse, a cover-up.
In April, a documentary “Killing Pavel”, produced by four journalists from Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Slidstvo.info, revealed that the investigation had lacked key evidence and clues.
In fact, the evidence revealed in the film is the only visible progress in the case.
The authorities’ inability to adequately investigate the case was again highlighted in a special report on the Sheremet case published on 12 July by the Journalist Protection Committee, an international media defense organization.
After discussing the case with President Petro Poroshenko and other senior officials, CPJ officials said it was difficult to understand who was leading the investigation.
“There is a great deal of confusion in who is doing what,” said Nina Ognianova, coordinator of the Europe and Central Asia program with CPJ.
“Every time we asked, we were given a different name,” said Christopher Miller, a Kiev journalist and a former Kyiv Post journalist who wrote the report.
Eventually, he was told that Dmytro Storozhuk, the deputy chief prosecutor general, is in charge of the investigation. The SBU, according to meeting participants, played a supporting role in the investigation and assisted when requested.
On July 11, almost a year after the murder, Poroshenko agreed to invite international investigators to work on the case.
A year later
Immediately after his father was assassinated, Elizaveta Sheremet thought that at least the people who had executed the murder would be found.
“But it’s been a whole year,” he says and shrugs. “It’s a long time. Now it’s much more difficult to find them.”
A recent 21-year-old graduate living in Moscow, she spoke with her father the day before the murder. Later that week he was due to fly to Moscow for his brother’s birthday.
But while he was driving to host his morning show on Radio Vesti on July 20, a bomb under the driver’s seat of the car detonated. The CCTV footage later showed that the bomb had been placed 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. This prompted speculation that Prytula was the real target or that the murder was a way to intimidate her and Ukrainska Pravda.
Immediately after the attack, President Petro Poroshenko said it was “a matter of honor” to find the killers. The other senior officials echoed it.
Authorities said they were focusing on several lines of investigation, suggesting that the murder had been ordered by someone in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus and a number of possible reasons, including Sheremet’s work, private life and financial matters. .
After months without progress, the ice that collected on the case seemed to break a bit in April, when a documentary on the case revealed some vital evidence that investigators had lost.
“Killing Pavel”, a film produced by journalists from Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a partner of Kyiv Post and Slidstvo.info, and released in May, found several witnesses who have never been contacted by investigators.
One of them was Ihor Ustymenko, a former Ukrainian security officer, who spent several hours wandering near Sheremet’s car shortly before the murder. He was brought in for questioning. Investigating officials told Miller that Ustymenko’s story had been verified and that he was not a suspect.
The results of the documentary suggest that the investigation was unsuccessful. And while at first it seemed that the new revelations could rekindle the investigation, hope dissolved again as the weeks went by without progress.
A new impetus to investigators could come with the publication of the 26-page report on the Sheremet case by the CPJ on July 12th.
Several council members came to Kiev to highlight the release of the report and to discuss the investigation with Poroshenko, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the SBU security service in Ukraine and the national police.
But a series of 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 had gone.
However, CPJ executive director Joel Simon said the meetings left him a little more reassured about the future of the case than before, despite past failures in the investigation.
“I don’t think anyone is happy. We are not happy,” “said Simon.” The fact is that a year has passed. We have no suspicions or clues. We don’t even have any visible progress. “
According to him, senior officials once again expressed a commitment to resolve the case, but also acknowledged that errors were made during the investigation.
“We have to be optimistic, because what choice do we have?” Simone said.
On the evening of 11 July, the mother of the late journalist Lyudmila Sheremet, along with her daughter Elizaveta, came to lay flowers on the intersection of Ivana Franka and Bohdana Khmelnytskoho Streets, where Sheremet’s car exploded.
People and cars passed 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,” said Lyudmila Sheremet. “But it is the Ukrainian leadership that needs this investigation most. They must demonstrate that they are capable and able to protect their people.”
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