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Journalist’s death prompts Ukrainian officials to look for ‘Russian trace’ — experts

July 21, 3:40 UTC+3 KIEV
The explosion went off at the beginning of the workday in the very center of the city at the crossing of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and Ivan Franko streets
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KIEV, July 21. /TASS/. Wednesday’s murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet in downtown Kiev had a demonstrational character, experts pointed out as they tried to assess the incident, in which a blast produced by an explosive device planted in a car took away the life of a media man, whose career embraced the coverage of his native Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

The explosion went off at the beginning of the workday in the very center of the city at the crossing of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and Ivan Franko streets.

The masterminds of the crime apparently sought to provoke a harsh reaction from the authorities. The latter reacted quickly - President Pyotr Poroshenko, Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko, Security Service (SBU) director Vassily Gritsak, and the national police director Khariya Dekanoidze said it was noble cause for them to find those who had ordered and perpetrated this crime.

The Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case and President Poroshenko asked the FBI to join the investigation - and got consent from it. Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin received an instruction to secure assistance from Europol.

Almost immediately the authorities rushed to make first suppositions about the cause of the killing. Prosecutor Lutsenko named two versions - professional activity and destabilization of the situation in the center of the capital city.

He also proposed the tightening of control over all the mass actions in Kiev shortly.

"Any actions that will be organized in the short term must involve the use of metal searchers," Lutsenko said. "Too much information on possible provocations is coming and they might really be part and parcel of a broader plan of some kind."

The SBU director said his agency would explore the version suggesting an attempt to destabilize the situation in the country.

Zorian Shkiryak, an advisor to the Interior Minister, went farther than others and included a ‘Russian trace’ of some sort into the list of possible options.

"Other versions can be considered, too, but I personally would like to support Gerashchenko (Anton Gerashchenko, also an advisor to the Interior Minister - TASS) and say a Russian trace can’t be ruled out," he said.

Shkiryak found a proof of this in the deterioration of fighting in Donbass and an alleged intensification of activity of the "pro-Russian forces" recently. He also saw a confirmation of his theory in the fact the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate had Cross-bearing processions in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Political analyst Vadim Karasyov called Shkiryak’s version into question saying: "Sheremet was unearthing a number of little-known but highly illicit cases, including investigations related to the Odessa region and some other independent cases and it’s quite possible he had tapped links to some big shots and had tarnished someone’s interests."

"I knew him very well," Karasyov went on. "He was an all-or-nothing journalist and quite possibly he paid for it."

"Some are putting forward a version implying a Russian trace but what would Russia need it for?" he said. "On the contrary, they would need a more or less quiet situation here, a solution of the Donbass problem so that elections could be held here, while any instability will detail the Minsk accords."

"Others speak about the attempts to destabilize the situation and recall indications of a possible martial law but if this is really the case, it’s unclear then why Sheremet was selected as the target because there are much more significant journalists than him," he said.

"If you consider conspiracy theories then a different candidate would be chosen as a sacrificial victim," Karasyov said.

Lawyer Anna Malyar supported his viewpoint. "If the Russian secret services really sought to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, they would do it at some other period of time," she said. "And summer is the most inopportune moment. It’s also inopportune from the viewpoint of international events.".

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