Kiev car bomb kills top Belarusian journalist Sheremet

Sheremet's car wrecked by bomb blast in Kiev, 20 July 16 Image copyright AP
Image caption The car blew up on a major thoroughfare in Kiev as Sheremet was driving to work

A car bomb explosion has killed a leading Belarusian journalist and Kremlin critic, Pavel Sheremet, in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

He hosted a morning news show on Radio Vesti and reported for Ukrayinska Pravda, a popular news website.

The bomb went off as Sheremet, 44, was driving a car belonging to his partner, the website's owner Olena Prytula.

Sheremet had lived in Kiev for five years, after quitting Russian TV because of alleged Kremlin pressure.

The Russian authorities accuse Ukrainian media of distorting news from eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are defying Kiev's forces.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry spokesman, Artem Shevchenko, called the car bombing "a brazen murder... aimed at destabilising the situation" in Ukraine.

Why was Pavel Sheremet a big name?

Image copyright AP
Image caption Sheremet left Belarus after years of harassment by the authorities

In 1997 Sheremet was jailed in Belarus after reporting on political oppression in the ex-Soviet state. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down on dissent during more than 20 years of authoritarian rule.

In 2004 Sheremet suffered a severe beating in Belarus, where he founded Belarussky Partizan, an opposition news website.

Later he worked for Russia's ORT television and was a news anchor on Vremya (Time), which has a huge audience.

In 2014 he resigned from Russia's state-run Channel One TV, in protest at Russia's stance towards the political crisis in Ukraine.

He moved to Kiev and worked for Ukrayinska Pravda, an independent news website founded by Georgy Gongadze, who was widely seen as a martyr for freedom when he was murdered in 2000.

Gongadze's headless body was found in a forest outside Kiev. The murder fuelled anger that escalated into Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution.

That pro-Western upheaval was repeated in 2013-2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced to flee.

Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, said the death of Sheremet, whom he knew personally, was a "terrible tragedy" and ordered an immediate inquiry.

Image copyright BBbc

The car bombing came after a new flare-up in fighting in eastern Ukraine this week.

On Tuesday the Ukrainian military said seven of its soldiers had been killed and 14 wounded in clashes with the rebels - the highest casualty figure for almost two months. The two-year insurgency in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has claimed more than 9,000 lives.

Nato, Western leaders and the Ukrainian government accuse Russia of sending heavy armour and regular troops to the rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies that, but admits that Russian "volunteers" are helping the rebels.

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