Car bomb kills leading anti-corruption journalist in Ukraine

Explosion in Kiev an attempt to destabilise Ukraine, says President Petro Poroshenko

One of Ukraine’s leading journalists was killed by a car bomb on Wednesday, prompting its president to warn of a possible plot to further destabilise the embattled country.

Pavel Sheremet died when the car he was driving exploded at around 7.45 am local time, due to what investigators said was a bomb placed close to the driver's seat.

Mr Sheremet (44) was a prominent reporter for the Ukrainska Pravda news website, which backs pro-western reforms, investigates corrupt politicians and businessmen and criticises Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

Ukrainska Pravda was founded in 2000 by another outspoken journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, who was kidnapped and murdered later that year by police officers in a gruesome case that had lasting political resonance.


Mr Sheremet died at the wheel of a car belonging to his partner Olena Prytula, the head of Ukrainska Pravda, who was not in the vehicle when it exploded. The couple's friends said they had complained recently of being followed.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko gathered prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, police chief Khatia Dekanoidze and head of the security service Vasily Hritsak to order an immediate investigation involving their best personnel.

“This is a matter of our honour – to take all measures required so that this crime is solved as soon as possible,” Mr Poroshenko told the sombre officials.

“It seems to me this was done with one aim in mind – to destabilise the situation in the country, possibly ahead of further events,” he warned.

‘Russian aggressor’

“We mustn’t forget that the country is now defending itself from the Russian aggressor . . . and we won’t let anyone open up a second front inside the country.”

Mr Lutsenko said metal detectors must be used at any forthcoming mass public events.

“There’s too much information coming in about possible provocations in the coming days, and considering today’s terrible incident with Pavel it could really be part of some big plan,” he warned.

Mr Poroshenko said the US embassy in Kiev had also been contacted with a view to the FBI assisting in the investigation, and he also ordered Ukraine's foreign minister to ask EU states to send experts who could help with the case.

Jan Tombinski, who leads the EU delegation in Kiev, said: "I express my sincere condolences to the family of Pavel Sheremet and to all his colleagues whose work is at the heart of the independent and free media in Ukraine.

“I call on the authorities to put all efforts behind this investigation and swiftly bring those responsible for this atrocious crime to justice.”

Mr Sheremet was born in Belarus and came under pressure for criticising its veteran authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

In 1999 he moved to Russia but quit the state broadcaster in 2014 over what he saw as its propaganda campaign against Ukraine.

Having denounced Russia's annexation of Crimea and backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine, Mr Sheremet moved to Kiev. He was a friend of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in central Moscow last year.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe