Five people have been arrested in Ukraine in connection with the death of the Belarusian investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet who was murdered in a car bombing in 2016. The detainees, three men and two women, are veterans of the war in eastern Ukraine, where they volunteered with troops fighting Russian-backed separatist forces. According to Ukrainian police the aim of the plotters behind the assassination was to destabilise the political situation in Ukraine.
Ukrainian police worked with experts from the United Kingdom to identify the suspects from hours of security camera recordings, said the deputy director of police Evgeni Koval. Two of the detainees – Andrei Antonenko, a sergeant of the Special Operations Forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and Yulia Kuzmenko, a doctor who volunteered to treat government soldiers on the front – are accused of planting the bomb under the car used by Sheremet.
The journalist, who the New York Times described as being “known for his crusading reports about political abuses in Belarus” was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award in 1999 and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Prize for Journalism and Democracy in 2002.
He was given Russian citizenship after fleeing persecution in Belarus but relocated permanently to Ukraine in 2014 saying that he no longer felt safe living in Moscow. Sheremet died when an explosive device stuck to the bottom of the car he was driving went off at a Kyiv intersection as he was heading to a studio to host his radio program on July 20, 2016.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who during his election campaign had promised to renew efforts to bring Sheremet’s killers to justice, welcomed the arrests. “The alleged murderers were arrested. Today we have received many answers,” Zelensky said after the arrests were made public. “But one question remains: who commissioned the crime. I am sure that this question will have an answer soon,” Zelensky added.