The president of Ukraine has called for the culprits behind the murder of one of the country’s most renowned journalists to be brought to justice.
Pavel Sheremet died on Tuesday in Kiev when the car he was driving to work exploded in an attack that has stunned the country and reminded it of the turbulent 1990s that saw the rise of organised crime networks entwined with political leaders.
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said an “explosive device” had destroyed the car. The bomb, which reduced the car to a burnt-out wreck, is believed to have contained about 600 grams of TNT.
The 44-year-old journalist survived the blast and was dragged clear of the burning car, but died before an ambulance arrived.
“I ordered law enforcement agencies to investigate this crime immediately,” said Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president. “Those responsible should be punished. I think this was done with only one goal in mind – to destabilise the situation in the country, possibly ahead of some other events.”
Jan Tobinski, head of the EU delegation to Kiev, echoed the president’s words calling for the swift arrest of those responsible for this “atrocious crime to justice”.
Born in Belarus, Sheremet worked as an investigative journalist for Ukrainska Pravda, one of Ukraine’s leading internet news sites, and also hosted a radio show in a career that had set him at odds with the region’s autocratic governments.
In his native Belarus, he had been beaten and jailed for his reporting on government of Aleksander Lukashenko, the country’s long-time president. In 2014 he quit his job as a host of a popular Russian TV programme in protest over Russia’s policies towards Ukraine, and he was also friends with Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition politician and leading Putin critic who was assassinated last year.
To many in Ukraine the killing is reminiscent of the death of Georgy Gongadze, Ukrainska Pravda’s founder. In 2000 he went missing after investigating the financial dealing of Leonid Kuchma, then Ukrainian president, and his headless corpse was found two months later in a forest near Kiev.
The circumstances surrounding his death, and a subsequent botched murder investigation, became a national scandal in Ukraine and helped fuel the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004.