KIEV, May 14 – Ten months after the murder of a prominent journalist, police will finally question a former security service agent who was spotted watching the street the night the bomb was planted.
President Petro Poroshenko said the former agent, Ihor Ustimenko, will be questioned by police on Monday after journalists discovered a video footage linking him to the place.
The development underscores major lapses in the investigation by police, which has made little progress in solving the July 2016 murder of Pavel Sheremet.
“Unfortunately, I was expecting a better result. And I am unhappy that so far we have no killer, and he is not held accountable,” Poroshenko said at a press conference on Sunday.
Poroshenko, whose previous press conference was 11 months ago, in July 2016, reacted to a group of journalists wearing black T-shirts carrying the sign: ‘Who killed Pavel?”
Sheremet was driving to work when his car exploded. The murder was the most high-profile assassination of a reporter in the country since the beheading in 2000 of the investigative reporter Georgiy Gongadze.
After the murder, Poroshenko said it was a “matter of honor” for police to solve it. Police admitted making little progress in the investigation after checking hundreds of video tapes and speaking to thousands of people in the area.
But the footage found by a team of investigative journalists shows two suspicious men spending the night near Sherement’s home for no apparent reason. They were still there when a man and a woman went past and allegedly fixed the bomb.
The Bellingcat citizen journalist group managed to identify their car – a grey Skoda – and its registration. The investigative reporters subsequently tracked down one of the men and identified him as Ustimenko.
When journalists asked Ustimenko about the footage, his answers were vague and not convincing. He refused to disclose any details.
The journalists later confirmed that Ustimenko worked in the security service SBU until 2014. SBU later said Ustimenko was dismissed in April 2014, but gave no reason for the dismissal.
"I was informed that Ustimenko was summoned for questioning and will be questioned on Monday,” Poroshenko said. “You will know all the facts that media is allowed to know” after the questioning.
The killing of Sheremet caused a major scandal, and American FBI specialists were brought in to help identify the explosives.
The United Nations deputy high commissioner for human rights, Kate Gilmore, said Sheremet’s murder would be a “test of the ability and willingness of Ukraine’s institutions to investigate assaults on media freedom.” (nr/ez)