Pavel Sheremet was killed in Kyiv on July 20, 2016, when an explosive device detonated under the car he was driving. He was 44 years old.
Sheremet, who wrote for the independent news website Ukrainska Pravda, was driving to the offices of the independent broadcaster Radio Vesti, where he also hosted a morning radio show, when the car he was driving exploded, Ukrainska Pravda reported. Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general at the time, said that a car bomb had caused the explosion, according to press reports. Sheremet was a 1998 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award.
Then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned Sheremet’s murder, requested that top law enforcement officials personally oversee the probe, and urged them to seek assistance from the FBI and other international law enforcement experts, according to a statement on the president’s website.
According to reports in the local and international press, investigators said that they were investigating Sheremet’s journalism as the primary motive in a case of premeditated murder. Authorities also said they were investigating the possibility that the killers had sought to kill Alena Pritula, owner and former editor of Ukrainska Pravda, whose car Sheremet was driving when he died, Ukrainska Pravda reported. Poroshenko ordered law enforcement agencies to place Pritula under protection, Ukrainska Pravda said.
Sheremet’s friends told journalists that he and Pritula had complained of being followed in Kyiv. Sheremet told Reuters in October 2015 that he did not feel safe visiting Moscow, where he had previously worked as a journalist.
“I’m threatened often and given hints. Every time I go to Moscow, it’s like I’m in a minefield,” he told Reuters.
In his work for Ukrainska Pravda, Sheremet commented on political developments in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. In the weeks before his murder, he had written about Ukrainian volunteer battalion fighters’ joining criminal gangs after leaving the militias, petty corruption among police in Belarus, alleged corruption among Ukrainian government officials and police, and the work of Russian government propagandists.
Sheremet was originally from Belarus. He was producer and anchor of a weekly news and analysis show called Prospekt on Belarus state TV’s Channel 1 for a year, until President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government ordered it off the air in April 1995.
In 1995, Sheremet began working for the Russian broadcaster ORT, and that year won the Belarus PEN Center’s Adamovich Prize as best television reporter in Belarus. He edited independent Belarussian newspaper Belarusskaya Delovaya Gazeta. In 1997, Belarussian authorities jailed him for three months in connection to his reporting, and stripped him of his citizenship in 2010.
In an October 18, 2016, interview with the news agency Ukrinform, Ukraine’s deputy police chief, Vadim Troyan said, “Definitely, there has been progress” in investigating Sheremet’s killing, but did not provide further details on the grounds that it could harm the investigation.
On December 12, 2019, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that police had apprehended five individuals – three women and two men – suspected of involvement in Sheremet’s killing, according to media reports.
At a press conference that day, Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka said that “only those who planned and committed the murder have been identified” and added that “the initiator and organizer of this terrible murder” had not been identified, according to a report by U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Authorities allege that Andriy Antonenko and Yulia Kuzmenko planted the bomb that killed Sheremet, according to that report. Antonenko works as a musician and previously fought among Ukrainian troops in the Donbas; Kuzmenko is a doctor who treated Ukrainian soldiers in the conflict, according to RFE/RL, which said that both denied the allegations.
Vladyslav and Inna Hryshchenko, a couple, are suspected of making the bomb, and were already in government custody on suspicion of their involvement in a failed bombing attempt against a businessman in western Ukraine, according to RFE/RL. Neither have been formally charged in connection to Sheremet’s case, the couple’s lawyer, Alena Pomazanovskaya, confirmed to CPJ by messaging app in September 2021.
The fifth suspect, Yana Dugar, a former nurse in a paratrooper battalion, is accused of aiding in Sheremet’s killing by taking photographs of security cameras near his home, RFE/RL reported.
In May 2020, Dugar was released on bail, according to reports. In August 2020, Kuzmenko was released to house arrest and in April 2021, Antonenko was released to house arrest, according to news reports.
On January 4, 2021, European online newspaper EU Observer published an audio recording of Belarusian authorities allegedly planning Sheremet’s murder. The 2012 audio recording revealed that the chairman of the Belarusian KGB at the time, Vadim Zaitsev, was allegedly plotting to kill Sheremet with the officers of a counter-terrorism unit of the KGB, according to EU Observer.
The Belarusian Foreign Affairs Ministry alleged that Igor Makar, a Belarusian opposition activist and former counter-terrorism unit worker who had leaked the recording to EU Observer, was involved in fraudulent activity and tried to receive money in exchange for information, according to reports.
On January 19, 2021, Makar testified to the Ukrainian police as a witness in Sheremet’s case, reports said.
In June 2021, the deputy head of the National Police of Ukraine, Maksim Tsutskiridze, told Censor.net, a Ukrainian news website, that Ukraine requested assistance from the governments of Belarus, Lithuania, the United States, and Russia to determine whether Belarus played a role in Sheremet’s murder.
In August 2021, Kuzmenko’s 24-hour house arrest was changed to only require her to remain home at night, and Antonenko’s house arrest was extended until October 17, according to reports.
As of September 2021, the trials of Dugar, Kuzmenko, and Antonenko were ongoing, reports stated.
In an interview with the local bureau of independent Russian news agency Interfax on September 6, 2021, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky said that progress on identifying the organizers of Sheremet’s murder was likely only after the conviction of those who perpetrated the killing.
On July 24, 2022, Russian anti-corruption website Gulagu.net published an interview with former Federal Security Service (FSB) agent Aleksandr Lisenkov in which he claimed to "know for sure" that Sheremet’s murder was an FSB operation, without giving any further details.
CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs for comment but the calls were not answered. CPJ emailed the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB but did not receive a reply.