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Hundreds pay homage to slain Ukraine reporter

World News
Fri, 22 Jul 2016

Kiev: Hundreds of mourners shed tears and laid flowers on Friday at the open casket of a top reporter whose targeted car-bomb slaying sent shock waves through Ukraine's tight-knit journalistic community.

Wednesday's death of Pavel Sheremet -- a 44-year-old columnist for Ukrainska Pravda -- came 16 years after the beheading of the investigative news site's founder that carried dark political overtones.

Sheremet -- a Russian national who was born in ex-Soviet Belarus -- was respected for criticising both the Kremlin and the mistakes Ukraine has made since severing ties with Moscow in a 2014 pro-EU revolution that was followed by a 27-month eastern separatist revolt.

"Ukrainian journalism lost a great reporter," 64-year-old scientist Kostyantyn Skrypnyk said while waiting at the entrance of a Kiev conference hall at which the memorial ceremony was held.

Several family members and fellow reporters cried as the somber procession slowly moved past a large photograph of a smiling Sheremet at the hall's entrance toward the casket inside.

"If this crime is not punished, it will only happen again," Skrypnyk said moments before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appeared at the ceremony to pay his own respects.

"I think that journalists get killed in only the country's darkest hours," fellow reporter Anastasia Ringis told AFP.

Sheremet worked on a top TV channel in Russia before definitively quitting the country in 2014 because of his critical views of the Kremlin's tough stance on Ukraine.

He also founded the popular Belarussky Partizan opposition website after being detained and expelled from his homeland Belarus for his political attacks on authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The reporter will be laid to rest on Saturday in his native city of Minsk.

Ukraine has asked the United States and the European Union for assistance in solving a murder that Poroshenko said may have been ordered from abroad -- a thinly veiled reference to Russia.

Kiev investigators have so far been stymied by the crime and have not arrested any suspects.

Ukrainska Pravda editor Sevgil Musaieva-Borovyk has said that she first felt the sense of danger when the site's co-founder Olena Prytula and her partner Sheremet found themselves being followed late last year.

"Our emails were hacked, our phones were tapped," Musaieva-Borovyk told AFP on Thursday.

She did not know who broke into the site's computer system -- but the list of potential suspects is long.

These include not only corrupt officials and oligarchs but also pro-Kiev hackers who have already revealed the personal details of thousands of reporters accredited with the rebels to work in Ukraine's eastern war zone.

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