Archive for May 10th, 2017

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Killing Pavel

May 10, 2017

10th May witnessed the publication of some very thorough investigative journalism by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Ukraine’s Slidstvo regarding the State investigation into the assassination of well known journalist Pavel Sheremet.

It is well worth viewing if only to acknowledge the time, effort and in some places technical skill, that was involved.

Revelations however are few – and conclusions there are none.

That journalists are still able to conduct far more thorough investigations that the State institutions charged with doing so, at least prima facie, will not come as a surprise to many.

However, what the investigative State institutions know, or perhaps believe with a high degree of confidence, is not necessarily what enters the public domain.

“Public interest” and “interesting to the public” are not necessarily the same thing.  That said it is clearly in the public interest that the assassination of Pavel Sheremet is thoroughly and diligently investigated and the assassins identified and/or caught – as well as those that ordered the assassination.

The one revelation, at least insofar as the public domain is concerned, relates to the Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) possibly being “on plot” or at least active very close to the home of Mr Sheremet the night the bomb was planted under his car.  Indeed it appears that if that be the case the assassins walked through a possible SBU surveillance.

One of the suspected SBU “employees” – the nature of that “employ” remaining uncorroborated and also without explanation of his role/duties within – is from Odessa.  As the documentary makes clear, he does not deny being “on plot” in Kyiv at the time, despite never admitting being an “employee” of the SBU nor making any reasonable explanation for being there.  Neither does he identify others present.

A reader should note that SBU employees – regardless of how they are employed and the nature of that employ, traditionally have a habit of “freelancing”.  Ergo their activities may or may not be officially sanctioned.

Nevertheless questions will rightly be raised.  At the very least these individuals are witnesses – and perhaps (or not) professionals from whom it may (or not) be expected to have a far better observational eye than most.

It may be the case that the SBU leadership were unaware of some “freelancing”.  It may be the case that there was an entirely unrelated SBU surveillance operation occurring at that time.  It may be that those identified are not employed by the SBU either directly or indirectly.  However it may also be the case that the SBU surveillance was related.  It may, of course, be something far, far worse.

Whatever the case, if those involved are in fact SBU officers then scant regard for counter-surveillance was employed by those “on plot”.

It is also possible the SBU have deliberately kept silent awaiting other agencies to knock at their door should the surveillance team have been pinged by the police inquiry.  No knock equating to no answer and definitely no voluntary disclosure.

It may also prove to be that somewhere in the lofty circles of intelligence sharing they have informed other directly relevant investigating agencies of their presence that night and given assurances regarding their presence being irrelevant to the Sheremet assassination.  Alternatively they may have seriously dropped the surveillance ball and allowed the assassins to walk through the plot paying them no attention and are covering their institutional arse.  It may be something far, far worse.  Something very dark indeed.

Circumstances now however, in light of this publication, would demand an official response from the SBU – at the very least either confirming or denying an official operation and a presence “on plot” – regardless of whether the surveillance target was Sheremet or not.  Thereafter questions regarding the Odessa “employee” may or may not follow.

It now falls to either SBU Chief  Vasyl Hyrtsak  or Interior Minister Avakov (who continues to make some very strange decisions) to comment.  Saying nothing is really not an option.

Sadly, the journalistic investigation perhaps takes us no further toward knowing “who dunnit” – or may be it does if the inferences some will draw, no matter how dark, prove to be correct.  The “why” beyond being “work connected” certainly remains as elusive today as it was upon the day of the assassination.

Nevertheless, some quality investigative journalism on display.

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