(Berlin) – Ukrainian authorities should ensure that the investigation into the murder of Oles Buzyna, a journalist who was shot and killed on April 16, 2015, is effective, impartial, and transparent, Human Rights Watch said today.
Buzyna, former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Segodnya, was known for his pro-Russian views and his criticism of President Petro Poroshenko’s government.
“The murder of a fiercely outspoken journalist in broad daylight is an appalling crime that needs to be fully investigated,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Buzyna is well-known in Ukraine for his controversial views, and the investigators should give proper consideration to the possibility that his murder was connected to his views and his journalism.”
The Ukrainian Internal Affairs Ministry quickly opened an investigation.
On the afternoon of April 16, masked assailants attacked Buzyna, 45, outside his apartment building in Kiev as he was leaving. Based on news media reports, several witnesses told the police that they heard shots fired and saw two men shoot Buzyna in the chest and head and then flee in a dark blue vehicle. The police later found the vehicle abandoned in the same neighborhood. On April 17, the Kiev police chief told media that the police suspected that Buzyna’s murder was a contract killing.
Buzyna frequently criticized Poroshenko’s government and was in favor of Ukraine establishing closer ties with Russia. In February 2014, he openly opposed mass protests that led to the ouster of the then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. In March, media reported, Buzyna left Segodnya, where he had worked since 2006 as a special correspondent and later as editor-in-chief, alleging that the newspaper did not allow him to criticize Ukrainian authorities.
The day before Buzyna’s murder, Oleg Kalashnikov, a former member of parliament from Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, was shot dead outside the door to his apartment in Kiev.
In a statement to the news media on April 16, Poroshenko called for speedy and transparent investigations into the killings of Buzyna and Kalashnikov, offering his opinion that the murders were a “deliberate provocation” aimed at causing political turmoil in Ukraine.
“These chilling crimes have shook Kiev,” Williamson said. “It’s good that President Poroshenko called for an investigation, but it’s inappropriate for a head of state to immediately cast judgment on the nature of the crime, as this could influence the investigation. An impartial and transparent investigation would send a clear signal to potential attackers that Ukrainian authorities have zero tolerance for such violence.”