EU and rights groups urge Ukraine to find top journalist’s killers

Investigation stalled one year after Pavel Sheremet’s car was blown up in Kiev

A man carries a sign reading “a year has passed, who killed Pavla?” during a march in central Kiev on Thursday  to commemorate the death of investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet. Photograph:  Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

A man carries a sign reading “a year has passed, who killed Pavla?” during a march in central Kiev on Thursday to commemorate the death of investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

 

The European Union, rights groups and media watchdogs have joined friends and former colleagues of investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet in urging Ukraine to find who was behind the bombing that killed him in Kiev one year ago.

Mr Sheremet died when his car exploded as he drove to his morning radio show, prompting Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to order officials “to take all measures required so that this crime is solved as soon as possible” and to declare it “matter of honour” that the killers be caught.

Twelve months on, however, the case seems to have stalled and is in danger of joining a host of other major crimes that remain unsolved in Ukraine, raising grave doubts about the probity and professionalism of the country’s security services and senior officials.

“One year ago Ukrainian civil society and media community lost one of its most talented and brave journalists in a cold-blooded killing,” Hugues Mingarelli, the head of the EU delegation in Kiev, said on Thursday.

“I would like to once again call on Ukrainian authorities to conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this crime, allowing to identify the perpetrators and bring those responsible for this atrocity to justice . . . Progress in this case will no doubt be important for public trust in law enforcement institutions.”

Joint appeal

In a joint appeal, representatives of Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International in Ukraine and a host of other civil society groups called for EU and US experts to join the investigation.

“Ukraine has a legacy of impunity in attacks and murders of journalists . . . Therefore, we are convinced that without a radical change in the investigation process, despite all assurances of senior government officials, the investigation will bear no result,” the groups said.

Harlem Désir, the media freedom representative of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said Ukraine must solve the case to “prevent the fear and self-censorship that are instigated through such attacks from festering.

“Pavel Sheremet was an outstanding journalist and a role model for the young journalists he trained. What is the message today, one year after his murder, for the future of the media in Ukraine? This crime cannot remain unsolved.”

A small crowd carrying a banner reading “Who killed Pavel?” marched through Kiev on Thursday, from the place where Mr Sheremet’s car exploded to the presidential administration and Ukraine’s interior ministry.

A spokesman for the ministry said prosecutors had not yet identified any suspects, but insisted that earlier mistakes in the investigation had been corrected.

Mr Sheremet, who was born in Belarus in 1971, came under pressure for reporting critically on 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. He then settled in Kiev.