war crimes in Ukraine

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On the death of Volodymir Efremov


Maria Sambur, a representative of the IMI, who conducts the journalistic investigation of the death of Volodymir Efremov in a road accident, visited Kremenchug. She called on the hospital, where Pavlo Pinchuk, the driver of the truck with which Efremov’s car had collided, stayed. In what follows we present the description of the road accident told by P. Pinchuk.

Before the accident, about 50 meters from that place, he saw that something was wrong with the car, which was coming in the opposite direction: it whirled as on ice. Pinchuk did his best to avoid the collision, but the car darted out to the opposite traffic lane and hit his truck between the gasoline tank and front wheel. The stroke was so strong that the car was thrown to its lane again, and the truck drove to the ditch and stopped.

“When I got out from the cab, I even did not feel my traumas”, tells Pavlo Pinchuk. “I was thinking only about the driver of the car. The car was not on fire yet, but I saw the smoke. I looked into the car and saw that the safety cushion had burst. When I was dragging the driver out, his car was already burning.”

Let us restore the events that happened before the tragedy. “Several minutes before the accident, passing through a village, Efremov drove with the speed 90-100 kilometers per hour”, Igor Prushinskiy, a deputy of the editor-in-chief of the Chernobyl publishing house “Nash chas”, told to Maria Sambur at their meeting in Dnepropetrovsk.

“I was surprised that this car passed through the village with such great speed. He overtook my car, and I absentmindedly looked at the speedometer, it showed 60 km/h”, I. Prushinskiy said, “So I thought that his speed was about 90-100 km/h”.

When Prushinskiy came to the place of accident, five cars were already staying there. The car, which had overtaken him in the village, was burning. He reckons that the driver of this car overtook these five cars too. The people brought fire extinguishers and water from their cars, but they could do nothing.

“The driver of the truck was in shock, but nobody had the anti-shock drugs in their medicine chests”, told Prushinskiy. The behavior of the drivers of two other trucks, who were standing near their vehicles and did not react at the accident, seemed to be strange to Igor.

Other drivers ran up to Pinchuk and helped him to drag the victim out from the car. Efremov’s body was maimed, and he was already dead. The people tried to extinguish the fire, but did not succeed: the car burned to the ground in five minutes. Pavlo Pinchuk had time to see that a man was standing near Efremov’s car with video camera and recording all what happened. After that Pinchuk fainted, and did not observe the arrival of motor ambulance and militia.

The IMI turned to public with the request to assist in the investigation of V. Efremov’s death and obtained several essential evidence and documents.

In particular, a video record, made by one of the eyewitnesses of the tragedy, was sent to the editorial board. Many witnesses of this accident can be found on the basis of this record, and that increases the chances to learn something about the causes of the accident.

(«The Poltava oblast media club», No. 40, 7 August 2003)


Alla Lazareva:

Recently the IMI has got two cassettes with video records of the death of journalist Volodymir Efremov made by two different people. Neither the official investigation nor our journalistic investigation is completed yet.

After the talk with P. Pinchuk, the driver of the truck, with which Efremov’s car had collided, we turned to public with the request to send to us the video record of our colleague’s death. We learned about the existence of the record from Pinchuk. Pavlo Pinchuk saw a man, who was standing near Efremov’s car with video camera and recording the accident.

Although we scarcely believed in the success, our hopes were justified, and even more than we could expect. At first journalist Valeriy Kiselev, a representative of a TV company from Nikopol, phoned and proposed to pass the video record to us. This TV company is owned by the Nikopol plant of ferroalloys and is a partner of the Dnepropetrovsk 11th channel. The person, who made the record, refused to contact with us directly. This person also did not want to explain us, what he had done at this road with the professional camera. We only managed to learn that this man was not a journalist.

By the way, the record was made not in the professional, but in the amateurish format. Later one more phone call was got by the IMI and somebody… again proposed to give us the video record of Volodymir Efremov’s death. That time the author of the record was not anonymous. Petro Sushko, the head of the public organization “Zakhyst” told us, that accidentally he had been at the 299th kilometer of the road “Dnepropetrovsk – Borispol”, and recorded the accident hoping to sell the record to some TV channel. Yet, no TV channel agreed to buy this material. The Nikopol anonymous video amateur was luckier: he sold his record to the local TV channel.

When our representative Matia Sambut visited Dnepropetrovsk soon after Efremov’s death, the unofficial information was circulating in journalistic and law-enforcing circles of the city that the 11th channel possessed this record. Yet, the 11th channel, which had been founded and headed by Efremov, neither confirmed this information nor rendered the record to the investigating organs.

Thus, the IMI officially passed the copies of the both cassettes to the investigation. Other copies were left in the Institute for the independent expert analysis. One of the records is concentrated on Volodymir’s car, and another – on the truck, with which our colleague collided.

However, why two persons with video cameras appeared at the place of allegedly usual road accident? Well, one of the amateurs might be there by chance, but the presence of two people seems to be not casual. So, how to explain this situation? I cannot say it for sure, since the investigation still lasts, but I will express one assumption. Volodymir told me for many times that he was shadowed. Now I am blaming myself for the lack of interests to his words: I did not ask who shadowed him and for what. Efremov was not a paranoiac, but he was a very cautious man. For example, he always switched off his cell phone during serious talks.

Maybe the people, who shadowed Efremov, decided to make the video record of their object’s death for reporting to their employees? Or these people knew that the accident would happen? Alas, these questions are merely rhetorical, because the “author” of the “Nikopol cassette” refused to communicate with us.

Two years ago V. Efremov wrote in the newspaper “Golos Ukrainy”: “For the first time during thirty years of my work as a journalist I am writing because I am afraid. I am afraid of a senseless death. Yet, I am afraid even more that my death will be presented as an accidental one: “murder by drug addicts”, “murder for robbery” or “a tragic road accident”.”

I cannot say that I knew Volodymir very well, but it is doubtless that he was afraid of something. Of some information, which he knew, but did not communicate either to his relatives or to his colleagues? Of the revenge of his former (or actual) partners? Or of something else?

When Pavlo Lazarenko was the head of the Dnepropetrovsk oblast council and, later, the Prime-Minister of Ukraine, V. Efremov created the media-holding in Dnepropetrovsk: the 11th TV channel, newspapers “Soibor” and “Dnepropetrovsk”, radio company and informational agency… When, at the election of 1998, Lazarenko’s party “Gromada” got about 80% of votes in Dnepropetrovsk, other influential person of the city disliked that very much. P. Lazarenko escaped to the USA, and the destruction of the “pro- Lazarenko” mass media began throughout the country.

In January 1999 Efremov stayed in custody for several days under the pretext of the allegedly incorrectly registered bank credit. Yet, what really happened? Volodymir told me that the pressure was exerted on him for the cooperation with the ex-prime-minister, in particular, for the agitation for “Gromada”
at the election. Little by little Efremov lost all his mass media, naturally not for his own free will. In spring V. Efremov met with Lazarenko’s advocates Harold Rosenthal and Marina Dovgopola. The advocates confirmed that he had agreed to come to San Francisco and to appear in court. Later the American Embassy informed the IMI that the candidature of this witness was suggested by the advocates, but the court refused to listen to him.

Could the consent to give evidence on Lazarenko’s case become the reason of Efremov’s death? We do not know, since we have no materials proving or disproving this version. Yet, we know for sure that the status of the editor-in-chief of several large-scale regional mass media guaranteed to Efremov the great amount of information about the events of 1996-1999.

Could Efremov cooperate with the political opponents of the present owners of the 11th Dnepropetrovsk TV channel, whom he, obviously, disliked? We hope that the investigation will answer this question. And we will continue our journalistic investigation…

(«The Poltava oblast media-bulletin”, No. 42, 19 August 2003)

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