from Russia with bias


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Pavel Sheremet was a Ukrainian, as much as Russian and Belarusian journalist. He worked as a correspondent for the Russian ORT channel (currently Channel 1) in Minsk until he got jailed on dubious charges related to his professional activities. His cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky was later killed, allegedly by a death squad, also responsible for assassinations of Lukashenko’s opponents.

For a long time, I could not forgive Sheremet for his stint as a pro-Putin TV propagandist during Russian media wars that resulted in the defeat of Luzhkov-Primakov coalition and the hostile takeover of NTV – an event that heralded the beginning of the end of free press in Russia. To be fair, he was not the only democrat who backed Putin at the time. Many of Putin’s current fierce opponents regarded him as a lesser evil compared with his old guard foes.

I raised that subject when I first met Sheremet for a proper chat last year. He replied something along the lines that he would live to regret it. I immediately hated myself for my mindless righteousness.

Sheremet was one of the most nuanced journalist in the ex-USSR who didn’t give in to the temptation of joining crowds of zealots incapable of critical thinking, no matter whether they support Putin or the West. He understood the complexity of the post-Soviet discourse and bought neither Russian nor Ukrainian and Western propagandist cliches.

I think it is thanks to his Putin experience that he understood the risks of striking deals with the devil. His last op-ed, in which he warned about dodgy criminal characters associated with Ukrainian volunteer battalions, was exactly about that. It was a very carefully worded piece, which praised former Azov commander Anton Biletsky for cooperation with the government, but asserted that Biletsky’s progress should be watched very attentively because of his neo-Nazi past.

This is not to say that the blame should be immediately apportioned to the Ukrainian far-right. Sheremet was an important anti-Kremlin voice who has wholeheartedly supported Ukraine when it was invaded by Russian troops in 2014. As the owner of one of the main opposition websites in Belarus, he had enemies there, too.

Murders of journalists rarely get properly investigated in the former USSR. The lack of transparency in the case of pro-Russian journalist Oleh Buzyna, assassinated in Kiev last year, doesn’t leave much hope that this investigation will be any different. But Sheremet was a much more popular and respected media figure, so I am sure that in his case, the Ukrainian civil society will be pressing the authorities¬† very hard in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Written by fullofbias

July 20, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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