Ukraine: flawed official investigation into journalist’s murder a year ago

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Ukrainian civil society groups have issued a joint statement condemning flaws in the investigation into well-known Belarusian-born journalist Pavel Sheremet’s murder in Kiev exactly one year ago and calling for a new investigation that is complete, impartial, and transparent.

Sheremet was killed by the blast from a bomb placed under the driver’s seat of the car he was driving on 20 July 2016. He was on his way to Radio Vesti, where he hosted a morning programme.

Despite President Petro Poroshenko’s promise to shed all possible light on Sheremet’s shocking murder, the police investigation was marked by many flaws during the ensuing months.

An alternative investigation by a group of independent journalists revealed that the police failed to question key witnesses and analyse surveillance camera recordings. Above all, the official investigation seems to have ignored the presence of a former member of the intelligence services outside Sheremet’s home on the night that the bomb was placed under the car he drove.

The joint statement by RSF, the Institute for Mass Information (RSF’s Ukrainian partner organization) and thirty other organizations says: “The failure to promptly follow up on these leads and to secure relevant forensic video evidence puts into doubt the effectiveness of the investigation and undermines public confidence in it.”

Condemning the “legacy of impunity” for those who attack or murder journalists in Ukraine, the statement adds: “We are convinced that without a radical change in the investigation process, (...) the investigation will bear no result.”

Sheremet helped to set up several independent media in Belarus, where he began his journalistic career. A critic of President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, he spent several months in jail there before moving to Russia.

He resigned from a Russian TV job in 2014, criticizing the Kremlin’s propaganda about Ukraine, and move to Kiev, where he was working for Radio Vesti and the news website Ukrayinska Pravda at the time of his death.

Ukraine is ranked 102nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.