Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Award winning journalist Pavel Sheremet killed in a car bombing in Ukraine.

Ukrainian police secure the bombed out car. Reuters. 

A car bomb has killed an award winning journalist in Ukraine. Reuters. Pavel Sheremet was working as an investigative reporter in Ukraine and was famous for being critical of both Russia and his homeland of Belarus. He was also friends with Russian opposition leader Boris Nemstov before his assassination in 2015. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko claimed that the attack was meant to destabilize Ukraine. Sherement, who was granted Russian citizenship, said he no longer felt safe in his adopted homeland. He also said that Ukraine needed independent journalists to keep the tycoon owned media outlets honest. 

My Comment:
It's been awhile since I posted anything about Ukraine. The civil war there has largely calmed down and has settled into a stalemate. It's the kind of stalemate where people die all the time, but not one where anything really changes. In short, the situation is nothing like it was during the revolution and civil war, though it's still a dangerous area. I wish I could cover it more, but not enough is really happening to justify it. This attack is an exception. 

This is a major murder mystery but there a few things that should be clear right away. This wasn't a Islamic terrorist attack, that's for sure. They go for high casualty and more visible attacks then this. Plus I doubt they would plant a bomb in a random journalist's car unless he had done something to anger them, like post a cartoon of Mohamed or something. Even though this was a bombing, I don't suspect any connection to ISIS or other Islamic terrorist group.

Second, this was a clear message from somebody. There are much more subtle and safer ways to eliminate someone without using a car bomb. I am sure whoever did this could have made Sheremet disappear without much effort, but they chose this kind of attack because it made a scene. The message wasn't directed at Sheremet, it was directed at the people that would take up his cause. If you do what he did, you end up dead in a very shocking and public way. That's the kind of message that is impossible to miss.

And yes, this attack is shocking. Assassinations of journalists are nothing new, but the method used is extremely unusual and brutal. People are generally outraged when journalists are mistreated and disgusted when they are killed (unless they don't like them politically). That outrage will be increased for this attack since it was clearly done to intimidate others and not just to silence Pavel Sheremet. Since the death of journalists are naturally covered by journalists, expect this story to get a bit more traction then it would otherwise. 

I also think that this was a professional hit by someone allied to a government. This wasn't a rouge player but someone or a team of someones who worked for an intelligence agency. This attack required not only the skills to make a reliable bomb but also the knowledge of where Sheremet was going to be at any given time. My guess is that he had been tailed for weeks as his murderers plotted. That's more then a random psycho or a guy with a grudge could pull off. A large criminal organization might be able to as well, but that is less likely. 

So who did it? Well that's the million dollar question. I think there are quite a few suspects. The first is Russia. Sheremet was a critic of Russia and Putin. People that get into it with Vladimir Putin and his country tend to have a bad time and they have killed journalists and dissidents before. 

Another possibility is Belarus. Sheremet was essentially in exile from the country and he had exposed human rights problems in the country. Perhaps someone from those days wanted revenge and got it? Still, I'm no expert in Belarus so I have no idea what the situation is there today.

It could also be one of the governments in Ukraine. Both the loyalists and the Russian backed rebels might have a reason to want Sheremet dead. After all he was going after the Ukrainian business tycoons. They have ties to both sides of the war and if he was close to something big they might have wanted to get rid of him.

Finally, for the sake of completeness it could be America or Europe that killed him. Yes, that makes little sense but someone is always going to believe it is a false flag to gather sympathy and support for pro-western forces in Ukraine. I think it is a stupid theory but I'll grant it is at least possible. You can take off your tinfoil hats now. 

I do have to say that whoever was responsible should be brought to justice. I never liked the idea of silencing journalists, even if I disagree with them politically. Not that I disagree or agree with Sheremet, but either way it is disgusting that he died like this. Killing a man using the tactics of a terrorist crosses a line that nobody should ever cross. I honestly have no idea who did this, but it shows that there are still people out there that would kill to stop the truth from getting out. 

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