The Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) has released a special report on the investigation into the murder of well-known journalist Pavel Sheremet. New details revealed in this report may prove groundbreaking.
In July 2016, a car bomb killed Sheremet while he was on his way to work in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine. Since then, the drawn-out official investigation into his murder has led to few results, while investigative journalists have uncovered a number of significant details.
The CPJ report draws upon substantive pieces of information revealed in the documentary film "Killing Pavel," a joint project by Hromadske's investigative unit "Slidstvo.Info" and the international Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). In the film, journalists identified a former agent of the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) and two unidentified assassins who were present outside Sheremet's apartment when the explosives were planted under his car.
However, when CPJ interviewed the head of the Ukrainian National Police, Serhiy Knyazev, in April, he implied that his team had established the identities of these two people, a man and a woman.
"Knyazev appeared to suggest that investigators may have some idea about who they are, but could not share the details with reporters because it could scare them into hiding or fleeing," the report states.
Meanwhile, others have their doubts. Former Ukrainian National Police Chief Khatia Dekanoidze told CPJ that she doubts investigators have identified anyone involved. Dekanoidze suspects that Knyazev's team was pretending to have more information than was publicly available to avoid accusations of incompetence.
In an interview with Hromadske, Alan Rusbridger, a member of CPJ's Board of Directors, also questioned the quality of the official investigation:
"We keep getting told that the best cops are on the case [and] they’ve got unlimited resources," Rusbridger said. "And yet, “Killing Pavel” came up with some really significant evidence that the police had missed. So it makes you question how good this investigation really is and how determined they are to get at the truth."
Alan Rusbridger, Photo credit: Hromadske
An investigative reporter from Belarus, Pavel Sheremet became well-known for his journalistic work in his homeland as well as in Russia and Ukraine. In the words of CPJ, "Tough reporting earned Sheremet enemies in three countries."
CPJ's special report includes a thorough examination of Sheremet's last days, the circumstances surrounding his murder and the progress, or lack thereof, in the ongoing official investigation. According to CPJ, journalists have thus far revealed the most relevant details in the murder case and the official investigation appears to be stalled.
"The lack of progress in the case, coupled with evidence pointing to possible Ukrainian involvement, weakens Kyiv's credibility and suggests the need for an independent probe," the report says.
In its report, CPJ calls on the Ukrainian authorities, including President Petro Poroshenko, to prove their "commitment to credibly investigating Sheremet's murder." The report also calls for an independent international inquiry into the case and requests the full cooperation of authorities in Russia and Belarus.
During a July 11 meeting with CPJ and members of Sheremet’s family, Poroshenko proposed incorporating an internationally recognized investigator into the case, RFE/RL reported.
/Written by Eilish Hart