Ukraine detains suspects in murder of top journalist

13 Dec 2019 / 11:20 H.

KIEV: Ukrainian police have detained several people suspected of involvement in the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet who died in a car bomb blast in 2016, the country’s leadership announced Thursday.

“Probable killers were detained today,“ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a press briefing in Kiev with the interior minister and general prosecutor.

“But there is another question: who ordered it?” he added.

Two women and three men, all former veterans of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, are accused of murdering Sheremet with the aim of “destabilising the situation in the country by killing a famous person,” National Police chief Yevgen Koval said.

The 44-year-old Sheremet, an acclaimed Belarus-born journalist with pro-European views, died in July 2016 when his car exploded while he was driving to work in central Kiev.

The investigation had considered four possible scenarios for the murder: a personal conflict, a murder by mistake, Sheremet’s professional activities, and the destabilisation theory.

The two main suspects suspected of planting the explosive device under Sheremet’s car are an ex-serviceman in the Ukrainian army Andriy Antonenko and a woman named Yuliya Kuzmenko.

Footage from the crime scene which had been released after the murder showed a man and a woman acting suspiciously near the car.

Antonenko denied involvement in the murder and on Thursday managed to write on Facebook when police came to arrest him.

“I am being accused of killing Sheremet. Right now (...) Help!” he wrote.

The murder has been a source of criticism of Ukraine’s interior ministry and security services, which made no progress on the case for years and classified parts of it, which invited suspicions of government involvement.

Zelensky on Thursday said Sheremet’s murder probe was a “priority”.

“Unfortunately, in our country there are many more cases like this,” he concluded.

Sheremet was a columnist for Ukrainska Pravda, a popular online newspaper whose founder Georgiy Gongadze was beheaded 16 years ago after probing alleged crimes of Ukrainian leaders.

Sheremet was respected for criticising the Kremlin while pointing out Ukraine’s mistakes. His murder sent shock waves across Ukraine and is only one in a string of unresolved murders and assaults on members of the media in the country.

On Thursday, Kiev’s ex-boxer mayor Vitaliy Klytchko said a park in the Ukrainian capital will be named after Pavel Sheremet after a decision by the city council.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, ranks 102nd out of 180 countries in a world ranking of media freedom by Reporters Without Borders. — AFP

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