Ukrainian authorities launch probe over death of judge who oversaw investigation into car-bomb murder of Russian journalist 

Ukrainian police have launched a probe following the death of Vitaly Pisants, an investigating judge in the as-yet-unsolved case of Pavel Sheremet, a Russian journalist murdered in the center of Kiev by a car bomb in 2016.

According to Ukrainian outlet Novaya Vremya, Pisants' death came as he was considering motions to extend the detention of three people thought to be behind Sheremet's murder.

Sheremet, who was best known for his writings about Belarus, died in the Kiev explosion, which the Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office says was caused by a bomb. In December 2019, three were arrested on suspicion of murdering Sheremet. According to the authorities, the killing was ordered and organized by Andrey Antonenko, a well-known military veteran and musician. Two other defendants, Yana Dugar and Yulia Kuzmenko, were detained as accomplices. They were all put under house arrest awaiting trial.

Now, with Pisants dead, the police are considering whether he may have been murdered to stop him from keeping the three in prison.

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According to reports, the judge died on September 11 in the village of Pogreby, where he was visiting the house of Pyotr Onopenko, the brother of the former head of the Supreme Court. Some Ukrainian media sources have claimed that he died in a drunken fight between his friends: a police officer and a lawyer.

The case of Sheremet's murder is still unsolved, five years after it happened. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, counterintelligence officers from the country's Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) could have been involved.

"There is a possibility that certain individuals who were connected to counterintelligence during [Petro Poroshenko's] presidency may be involved [in the killing]," Zelensky said.

"I do not interfere in the activities of law enforcement agencies and the court. But I know in detail what happened," he said.

Born in Soviet Belarus, Sheremet was a naturalized Russian and spent much of his career working on TV. He also wrote for the Ukrainian online publication Ukrayinska Pravda. At the time of his murder, Sheremet was a public critic of Poroshenko, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and their Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.

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