MOSCOW (AP) — Hundreds of local residents and journalists on Friday came to pay their respects to a prominent journalist who died in a car bombing in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev earlier this week.
Mourners lined to lay the flowers at Pavel Sheremet’s open casket, which had been put on display in a major Kiev community center. The 44-year-old is to be buried in Belarus, in his hometown of Minsk.
Sheremet’s killing on Wednesday in central Kiev sent shockwaves through the Ukrainian media community. Authorities have pledged to conduct a thorough and swift probe but provided no reason why they think Sheremet was killed.
The Obozrevatel news website on Friday released a video showing a man and a woman walking away from what Obozrevatel said was Sheremet’s car the night before it was blown up.
The Associated Press could not independently verify the authenticity of the video but Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko told reporters on Friday that it shows “part of the group” that was behind the journalist’s murder.
Sheremet had irked officials in Belarus and Russia before he moved to Ukraine, where he said there were fewer hurdles to independent reporting.
Though ties between Ukraine and Russia are all but severed because of the ongoing separatist war in the east, Russian journalists who worked Sheremet came to pay their respects.
“Those who did it — no good will come to them in this life or the next one,” said Ekho Moskvy’s deputy editor-in-chief Yevgeny Buntman who had come from Moscow.
“This was a monstrous blow, but we must keep the memory alive, to always have Pasha’s face in front of us and his hand in our hands so that we are not overcome by fear and not betray ourselves.”
Sheremet started out as a television journalist in Belarus in the 1990s when he was briefly incarcerated for illegally crossing the border while reporting on how porous it was. He left for Russia and was stripped of his Belarusian citizenship in 2010.
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.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged police and prosecutors to find the killers and bring them to justice.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman held a moment of silence in honor of Sheremet at the start of a government meeting on Friday and said law enforcement agencies are working day and night in order to find the killers.
“I know for sure that law enforcement agencies don’t sleep at night in order to solve this monstrous murder and feel they have to do it as soon as possible,” he said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.