You have probably heard the breaking news from yesterday, about the murder of Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sheremet. And when I say “Ukrainian”, well, Pavel was originally from Belorussia, but lived in Ukraine the last few years, and I think he probably also had Ukrainian citizenship. And he was also very “pro-Ukrainian” and “pro-Maidan” and that sort of thing, so I think it’s okay to call him a Ukrainian journalist.
Basically, Sheremet was blown up in a car bomb on July 20. The car, which was usually left parked out on the street, belonged to Pavel’s common-law wife, Alyona Pritula, who was also his editor at the newspaper they both worked on, “Ukrainskaya Pravda”. Alyona was not in the car at the time and therefore escaped death, but I suppose there is the possibility that the terrorist act was directed against her. I hope police are exploring that possibility; but on the other hand, both Sheremet and his wife had previously complained to friends earlier that they were being followed; also, the bomb was apparently set off remotely, after Sheremet had already driven in it a few meters. Therefore it is more likely that the attackers knew who was in the car and were aiming at him, specifically.
Now, if this was an American TV show, there would be a twist at the end, and it would turn out that the wife dunnit. But this isn’t a TV show, so in order to help solve this heinous crime we have to look at real clues and logical theories.
In the absence of solid facts we are left with random speculations from interested parties. Ranging from the official Ukrainian government theory of “The Russians Did It” (because the Russians are behind every bad thing that happens in post-Maidan Ukraine) to the notion that Ukrainians just do shit anarchistically for no reason; or maybe it was some fellow journalist who was jealous of Sheremet because he won a “human rights” prize from a Westie NGO; to even more fanciful possibilities. Working through the dust piles, trying to sift out a few solid nuggets, I picked out two theories which might merit a second look. Both of these theories fit my own personal ideological bias, which can be summarized as: “Follow the money.” In other words, is there somebody with money, whose nose was put out of joint by Sheremet’s journalistic investigations? Somebody who had the means to hire a team of mobsters who know how to rig a car bomb?
- Something to do with the miners protests. This piece in Navigator quotes Sergei Korotkikh from the Azov Battalion denying the possibility, as alleged by some, that radical Ukrainian nationalists were behind the hit on Sheremet. Korotkikh points out that “Pasha” was very friendly with the nationalist/fascist battalion in question, “and only wrote good things about us.” But here is the interesting part: Recently Sheremet, along with his friends in Azov, have been involved in actions of the industrial working class. Trying to form a sort of fascist/proletarian alliance. Coal miners in particular, the backbone of the Ukrainian proletariat, in normal times they would be communists or least trade unionists, but this time around at least some of them have been working alongside the neo-Nazi Azovites, holding protests, rallies, etc., against the shutting down of coal mines. According to Korotkikh, on the very eve of his murder, Sheremet interviewed Azov representatives about the upcoming meeting with the miners. When questioned on the Shuster show, Korotkikh described the last time he saw Sheremet alive:
“I met with him around 11:00 PM, we chatted under around midnight. The miners action and protest were being planned. For half a year now already, they have not been paid their wages. Pasha promised to help, in fact he was on his way to the radio station to talk to the coordinator on air, he was going to present the point of view of the miners and why they were forced to take to the streets.”
In Summary: Theory #1: Sheremet was Murdered By Mine Owners Or Their Minions
- Something to do with the various factions fighting over the Odessa port. That theory is described here and please, before you click on it, be careful and make sure children are not around, there is a gruesome photo of Sheremet being pulled out of the exploded car. Previously I had read some descriptions of the crime scene, with very gory eye-witness accounts. According to one eye-witness, when people rushed to pull Sheremet out of the car, they saw that his legs had been blown off and he was in very bad shape. “Was he still alive?” the reporter asked one eye-witness. “Yes, if you can call that living. And only for a few seconds more, and then he died.”
Anyhow, this Odessa Port theory was expressed by Mikhail Pogrebinsky, Director of the Kiev Center on Political Research and Conflictology. In an interview with the newspaper “Moscow Komsomolets”, Pogrebinsky pointed out that in his very last blogpost, Sheremet had written something critical about two of the players involved: Sergei Pereloma and Nikolai Shchurikov . This whole magilla is a complicated story in itself, which I have not yet had time to research. Just breaking it down to its most simplistic format of a multi-tiered cat fight:
The Odessa Port is a lucrative prize, its proposed privatization a golden bone fought over by several warring factions.
At the top of the food chain are various “big players” including ex Prime Minister Yatsenuk and Odessa governor Saakashvili.
At the lower levels of the food chain are such pikers as Pereloma and Shchurikov. Both are apparently ex-militiamen from the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). They belong to some gang calling themselves the “Peoples Front”. Returning from terrorizing the residents of Donbass, these “volunteers” used their new-found political power (as parliamentary deputies) to acquire juicy jobs running the port. Here, apparently, they came into conflict with a different clan, run by “anti-corruption crusader” Mikhail Saakashvili. Pereloma and Shchurikov were sacked, then arrested for corruption, theft and embezzlement. Their pals in the ATO militias swarmed the courthouse and forced the judge to free the two defendants. In this conflict, Sheremet, in his journalistic work, came down on the side AGAINST the two (Pereloma and Shchurikov). Normally, Sheremet would like such types, because they are ATO; but in this case, he thought they were just a couple of crooks arrested for valid criminal reasons.
Pogrebinsky quotes from Sheremet’s blog (supposedly). Actually, here is Sheremet’s blog, and I don’t see such a post there, but maybe I am missing something. Here is Pogrebinsky quoting something that Sheremet supposedly wrote three days before his own death: “Some deputy-militiamen and some other guys in camouflage, both on Friday and on Saturday, blocked the work of the court and created an atmosphere of hysteria around this issue. Why were these militiamen needed? What’s up with the camouflage? Pereloma and Shchurikov were detained on charges of embezzlement, and not for anything they allegedly did in the Anti-Terrorist Operation zone.”
Three days after writing this, Sheremet was killed by the car bomb. And what kind of people have a lot of experience with crude explosives? is the implication. Although the Navigator interlocutor goes on to demure, that he doesn’t think 3 days is really enough time to prepare a car-bombing. Well, maybe it isn’t, and maybe it is. It all depends.
In Summary: Theory #2: Sheremet was Murdered By Pereloma faction in Odessa port case