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Contract Assassinations & Organized Crime: Real Face Of Ukrainian ‘Defenders Of Democracy’

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Contract Assassinations & Organized Crime: Real Face Of Ukrainian 'Defenders Of Democracy'

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On December 12th, the Ukrainian Police announced that it has arrested five suspects for the murder of Pavel Sheremet.

Pavel Sheremet, a journalist from Belarus who was residing in Kyiv, was blown up in a car he was driving on the morning of July 20, 2016. Police opened a criminal case under Clause 5 of Part 2 of Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine

The then-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko named “revenge for professional activity” as a major version behind the journalist’s murder. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov did not rule out Russia’s involvement in the assassination.

It turned out that it was, in fact, Ukrainian nationalist who are the primary suspects and there’s no relation to Russia, whatsoever.

All of them are members of the Nazi-infested volunteer battalions or are affiliated to them.

One of the suspects in the case even posted on Facebook, asking for help because authorities were there to arrest him:

“I am being charged with the murder of Sheremet. Right now. In my yard. There will be a search. Help!” the famous Ukrainian musician, the favorite of right-wing radicals and Petro Poroshenko Andrey Antonenko said.

The arrests were confirmed by the Ukrainian Interior Minister.

“The National Police has just detained and with the consent of the SBU [Ukraine’s security service] declares reasonable suspicions of the suspects in the case of the murder of Pavel Sheremet,” the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov wrote on Twitter.

Contract Assassinations & Organized Crime: Real Face Of Ukrainian 'Defenders Of Democracy'

Click to see full-size image

The suspects are as follows:

  • Julia Kuzmenko: the “Fox.” A surgeon in Okhmatdet and a volunteer battalion member. She allegedly laid explosives under Sheremet’s car;
  • Andrey Antonenko: a volunteer battalion member, Special Operations Forces sergeant and rock musician known as Riffmaster. He escorted Kuzmenko to Sheremet’s car, after she allegedly laid the explosives, he met with her again and took her away from the scene of the crime. He lived nearby and knew the area well;
  • Yana Duhar: Medic in the 25th airborne brigade. Judging by the video cameras, on the eve of the murder, she carried out reconnaissance in the quarter where the journalist was killed, and took photographs of surveillance camera locations. These cameras also filmed her;
  • Inna Hryshchenko: Nicknamed “Puma”. What exactly she did and how she was connected with the other members of the group for this crime is unclear. But according to the logic of the police, it has to do with making explosives;
  • Vladislav Hryshchenko: Puma’s husband with the call sign Bucha and a specialist in IEDs and especially mines. An explosive device made by him in 2018 (in another crime) showed similarities with the Sheremet case. How he is associated with other members of the group (except for his wife) is also not clear.

The police did not provide direct evidence that those listed were involved in the murder of Sheremet.

No faces were visible on the cameras, with the exception of Yana Duhar, who actually walked along the nearby streets and photographed the cameras. In the published telephone conversations, there are also no hints of involvement in the Sheremet case.

But they were identified in the following way:

Andrei Antonenko or Riffmaster had a jacket with a print on his back. He appeared on a video where a man accompanies a woman who laid explosives under Sheremet’s car.

It turned out that a jacket with the same or similar print was worn on a man who in 2015 assisted in blowing up a power line in the Kherson region.

Police found that this was done by an “activist” nicknamed Natsik. Having investigated the circle of his acquaintances, they went to Antonenko and found in his social networks a photo where it is clear that he wears clothes with such prints.

Working through Antonenko’s connections, they came to Yulia Kuzmenko. And by chance got to the Inna and Vladislav Hryschenko.

The husband participated in the assassination attempt on a businessman in the Ivano-Frankivsk region in 2018, and for this he is already in prison.

His wife was arrested in November 2019 in relation to the same case.

The police confirmed that the explosive device in Sheremet’s car and the one used in the attempt on the businessman’s life were identical.

Regardless, they are simply just suspects at the moment.

“This case hasn’t been solved yet, so the investigation is still ongoing,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said.

“Today [December 12] we carried out a phase where a group was detained and charged. We believe charges are grounded. And that’s why we did an unprecedented, major briefing. That’s because the topic is very pressing and mind-blowing, so we sought to provide as much information as possible so that everyone understands our position,” the minister said.

He mentioned that it was unclear how the suspects were specifically connected to each other, but police were working on it.

“We have no answers on the interaction mechanism. In some aspects, we still have questions about the role of certain persons. And, in particular, we’re seeing persons who initiated this crime,” he added.

“Unfortunately, I can’t report on everything we know. Today at the briefing it was barely 5-7%, maybe 10% of the facts that we know that we can lay out. I think more news and more information will be coming in this case.” Avakov added he believed that “our arguments are very serious,” expressing confidence that “we are not mistaken.”

Yevhen Koval, deputy Head of the National Police, stated that 3700 interrogations and 47 expertises had been conducted in the Sheremet case, 800 documents, including mobile communications, were received, and recordings from more than 200 video cameras were analyzed.

The investigation had four main versions of the motives for the assassination:

  • a mistake – as the killers might have wanted to kill Olena Prytula who owned the detonated car;
  • personal issues;
  • professional activities;
  • destabilization of the situation in the country.

It is yet unclear which it is, but it is more than likely the wish of the Ukrainian authorities for the murder to be aimed at destabilizing Ukraine, but it appears that Russia played no role in it.

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