A prominent journalist was killed in a car bombing in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, yesterday morning, sending shockwaves through Ukraine’s journalist community that was shaped by the gruesome killing 16 years ago of the founder of the publication he worked for.
The country’s top online news website, ‘Ukrainska Pravda’, said its journalist Pavel Sheremet, 44, died in an explosion as he got into his car to drive to work to anchor a talk show on a local radio station.
It said the car was owned by its founding editor Olena Prytula, who was Sheremet’s romantic partner.
Images from the scene showed the charred car stranded in the middle of a cobbled street. The Ukrainian president has ordered protection for Prytula, the interior ministry said.
Zoryan Shkiryak, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said in a Facebook post that an improvised explosive device was planted underneath the car.
Shkiryak said the device was either a delayed-action bomb or was remotely operated. It’s believed to have contained up to the equivalent of 600 grams of TNT.
Interior minister Khatiya Dekanoidze will personally supervise the investigation.
“We are looking at all theories,” the visibly-shaken minister said, adding that solving the murder is “very important, a matter of honour” for the Kiev police.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with Dekanoidze, the prosecutor general and the chief of the Ukrainian Security Agency and urged them to conduct a speedy investigation.
Russia’s Novaya Gazeta quoted friends and family of Sheremet and Prytula as saying they had complained about being followed.
Ukraine’s media community was deeply affected by the brutal slaying of ‘Ukrainska Pravda’ founder Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000.
Thirteen years later, an interior ministry official was convicted for the killing but the probe never formally determined who ordered it.
The Belarusian-born Sheremet irked officials in Belarus and Russia before he moved to Ukraine, where he said there were fewer hurdles to independent reporting.
In a media landscape sanitized by the authoritarian Belarusian government, Sheremet — while living abroad — founded Belaruspartisan.org which went on to become one of the country’s leading independent news websites.
He moved to Ukraine in 2014 after what he said was pressure from his Russian television bosses over the reporting of ongoing opposition protests in Kiev.
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