International watchdogs probe Pavel Sheremet’s death, one year on

by Jane Whyatt

Human rights defenders including Rebecca Harms MEP and Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the British newspaper “The Guardian”,  are urging the Ukrainian authorities to properly investigate the death of a journalist who was murdered in a car bomb attack in July 2016.

Pavel Sheremet Journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed in July 2016 in Russia (copyright: Okras, Sheremet at Open Library debate 140928, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Pavel Sheremet, from Belarus, had worked in Russia and was the morning show host at Radio Vesti in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. He died of injuries from the blast, which wrecked the car he was driving and started a fire.

One year on, there have been no arrests and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has been investigating the investigation. A CPJ team including board member Alan Rusbridger travelled to Kiev and met Pavel Sheremet’s mother and other family members. 

Together they gave a press conference and revealed new details that journalists had discovered while making a documentary film about the case. It includes CCTV footage that shows a possible suspect. But as the CPJ’s Nina Ognyanova remarked: “The investigating authorities say the case includes numerous files and hundreds of pages. They see it as a top priority and they are aktively working on it. Yet today, one year after the murder, there are neither suspects nor arrests nor have any criminal proceedings started.“

Alan Rusbridger was interviewed on Hromadske TV about the case and commented: “The job of the CPJ is to apply pressure and scrutiny (…) to find out why there is apparent impunity and it’s very easy to murder journalists.“ 

Rusbridger paid tribute to Pavel Sheremet (who won three international awards for his investigative journalism) and noted: “Maybe there is something he has written or people he has upset who wanted to silence him.“

Hromadske is an independent internet television network that receives funds from the American and Dutch Embassies and from the Frit Ord and George Soros Renaissance Fund foundations. Ukrainian network UATV, which is linked to the govenment press centre, also broadcasted an interview with Alan Rusbridger.

Pressure on President Poroschenko

With members of Sheremet’s family, the CPJ delegation met Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko to present their findings. They demanded an independent international inquiry with full co-operation from the Russian and Belarus authorities too. President Poroschenko told the delegation that his government has the political will to solve the case, and suggested bringing in international experts to make the investigation more trustworthy and independent.

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