Pavel Sheremet: fearless journalist killed in Ukraine

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  • Pavel Sheremet
    Belarusian journalist

Kiev (AFP) - Belarus-born journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was killed by a car bomb in central Kiev on Wednesday, was known for his fearless criticism of the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

An award-winning journalist who interviewed Ukraine's top politicians, Sheremet was widely admired in the pro-Western country.

"He somehow managed to keep a respectful attitude... even when he was asking the most uncomfortable questions," Valery Kalnysh, his colleague on Radio Vesti, said.

"He lacked any servility... He was equally respectful to a street cleaner and a president -- but not without irony," the independent news site where he worked, Ukrainska Pravda, said in a tribute.

Sheremet, who was 44, was a close friend of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead close to the Kremlin last year. Sheremet was in charge of Nemtsov's memorial service in Moscow.

Sheremet was born in Belarus where he began his career clashing with authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

In 1997 he was arrested on the Belarusian border with Lithuania and charged with crossing the frontier illegally and "receiving money from foreign agencies and illegal journalistic activities".

Sheremet was sentenced to two years in prison and one year on probation, although he eventually spent only three months in jail.

- Moscow years -

Convinced that the case had been personally orchestrated by Lukashenko, Sheremet moved to Russia in 1999 to work on national ORT channel -- now Channel One -- on its leading news show Vremya (Time).

He was granted Russian citizenship in 2000.

In 2005 he founded the current affairs website Belorussky Partizan, which sharply criticised Lukashenko's administration.

In 2010, he lost his Belarusian citizenship without any explanation from Minsk.

In 2013 Sheremet began working for a new Russian broadcaster, Public TV and Radio (OTR), but quit in 2014 in protest at what he saw as the Kremlin's propaganda in coverage of the Ukrainian crisis.

He openly accused Russia of illegally annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Moscow separatists battling government forces in Ukraine's war-torn east.

- Accolades -

In Ukraine, he became executive director of the Ukrainska Pravda independent news site and started his own morning show on Vesti Radio, a station criticised by some as overly pro-Russian.

While working in Belarus, he won the Belarus PEN Center's Adamovich Prize as best television reporter and also won the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In 2002, he won the Prize for Journalism and Democracy from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Sheremet was married and had two sons and a daughter.

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