Sheremet Murder: Lack of sufficient evidence admitted after suspects all but declared guilty
Less than two months after
On 30 January 2020, Riaboshapka stated in
Notification had, indeed,
Such concern that there should be sufficient proof and willingness to accept evidence proving the suspects’ innocence are undoubtedly to be welcomed. The problem is that they are seriously belated. Riaboshapka was present, together with President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov at the press briefing on 12 December 2019 which all but claimed that the case had been solved, with this clearly implying that the five people named as suspects were guilty.
During that press briefing, Riaboshapka asserted that “The solving of this crime is an excellent example showing that for the first time since Independence the prosecutor’s office and police bodies are cooperating well. .. I would like to note the enormous work of my colleagues from the National Police and bodies of the prosecutor’s office and congratulate them with such a significant success”.
Riaboshapka’s use of the word “success”, like so many other assertions during that press briefing, were already a breach of five people’s right to the presumption of innocence. Now one of the participants in the breach is publicly acknowledging that additional evidence is needed and that this could prove that all or some of the suspects are innocent.
How many suspects?
Only three people – Antonenko, Kuzmenko and Dugar - are actually facing charges over Sheremet’s murder, although five names, including Inna and Vladyslav Hryshchenko were mentioned during the press briefing. This is, at very least, worrying since the police reported during the briefing that their DNA had been found on an explosive device. It was not clear which device was referred to, nor how the couple were alleged to have been involved in the Sheremet case. Almost two months later, there remains no clarity, and neither has been charged, with this surely raising the question of why they, and the supposed DNA ‘evidence’ that links him with a crime, were ever mentioned.
During the Interfax interview, Riaboshapka talked about finding those who commissioned the crime, as had Zelensky on 12 December. During the briefing, Avakov also suggested that the investigators were still considering a possible Russian link to the case.
Assertions were made during the briefing about suspects having made large purchases, which could give weight to the suggestion that there were people in the background who had commissioned the crime.
The trouble is that this clashes with the alleged motive of the alleged ‘organizer’ of the crime. The investigators have claimed that Antonenko organized the crime, and sought out people to carry it out. He is also supposed to have been the man, recorded by video footage, walking with the woman seen placing the explosive device under Sheremet’s car.
Antonenko is alleged to have done this, “Seized by ultra-nationalist ideas, cultivating the supremacy of the Arian race, the division of society on the basis of ethnic identity, wanting to make his views the object of public attention and carrying out his actions in order to draw the public’s attention to certain political beliefs… he decided to create an organized group in order to carry out the murder of journalist and radio presenter Sheremet”.
Not only does the motive thus presented clash with any implied suggestion that the suspects were carrying out a commissioned crime, but it also makes absolutely no sense. Sheremet’s murder did not attract public attention to these repugnant views, nor is there any evidence at all that attempts were made at any level to do so.
Expert assessments and contradictory evidence
A great deal was made during the briefing about expert assessments, including one from Ivan Birch, a forensic gait expert from the UK. The trouble here is that the assessments do not appear to be at all conclusive, and there really does not appear to be much else.
There are also some significant discrepancies. In 2016, the police
Huge public support for Antonenko, Kuzmenko and Dugar does not, in itself, prove that the three are innocent, but it does make the need for maximum clarity as to the grounds for the charges particularly urgent and there has been none.
Even the international media watchdog Reporters without Borders recently issued
Sheremet was closely connected with Ukrainska Pravda and the latter has been demanding a proper investigation ever since his murder. They articulated
The notification on the Prosecutor General’s Office site does not indicate which arguments from the defence need to be checked, but does also demand additional investigative activities.
Unlike the very public pronouncements both during the press briefing and