A Crime: One Last Hand for Pavel

We reported it here on 05 October 2011. That was the day when clapping hands in public became a crime in Belarus.

Following months of protests after the stolen elections in 2010, the streets of Belarus were filled with peaceful citizen protesters. Pavel Sheremet was there, reporting from the thick of it all as journalists were beaten and dragged off to jail like anyone else who dared to defy the dictatorship’s curfew. Pavel was one of those who was arrested and then suffered at the hands of the KGB thugs who protect president-for-life Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Thousands of brave citizens, longing for freedom, made their stand. It was not a pretty sight as the violence unleashed against a people was like something most in the West have never seen. In a country where ordinary citizens cannot possess weapons, citizens were forced to use their hands. Literally.

Public gatherings were banned, but citizens gathered anyway. They marched while shouting slogans and holding banners. Then, slogans and banners were banned. So, using social media they mobilized in groups by walking up and down streets while clapping hands in unison.

Hand-clapping in public was banned.

That brought on the “silent protests” with groups walking together quietly. It was not long before that too, was declared to be illegal.

On Saturday, the 23rd day of July in 2016, hand-clapping in public was once again heard in Belarus. It began slowly at first, as the body of murdered journalist Pavel Sheremet was carried from his funeral service at All Saints Church to the waiting burial van. As the van proceeded to the Northern Cemetery just outside Minsk, small groups of onlookers stood along the way to clap as Pavel’s body traveled to his final resting place.

It was one last hand for Pavel.


Rest in Peace: Pavel Sheremet

First in Kyiv (Kiev) and then in Minsk, thousands stood in line to say farewell to slain journalist Pavel Sheremet who was murdered when a car bomb exploded under the car he was driving last Wednesday.

Pavel Sheremet kiev rest

Sheremet’s funeral was held at All Saints Orthodox Cathedral in Minsk, the city of his birth. He was buried next to his father in a cemetery outside of Minsk.

In the video below, the hand clapping is a symbol of resistance as the government of Belarus has outlawed the clapping of hands in public. Public hand clapping became a symbol of opposition to the dictatorship after the government ordered that public gatherings of opposition groups were to be non-verbal.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered round the clock bodyguards for Olena Prytula, Pavel’s partner. She is the founding editor of Ukrainska Pravda newspaper. Just a few years ago one of the newspaper’s journalists was murdered while covering corruption stories regarding president Viktor Yanukovich who was ousted in the 2014 revolution.

Pavel Sheremet and Boris Nemtsov
Slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov (February 2015) at left with recently murdered opposition journalist Pavel Sheremet (July 2016).

Speaking to reporters while under house arrest in Moscow, Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny said of Sheremet: “Governments always knew that he understood them well and always hated him for that. Sheremet faced jail in Belarus, he was persecuted in Russia, and he was being followed in Ukraine.”

In the video below, Pavel interviewed Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was murdered in Moscow in 2015.

pavel sheremet radio 2

“Россия семимильными шагами движется к катастрофе, которую, мне кажется, остановить нельзя…” – Павел Шеремет  (Russia is moving by leaps and bounds to the catastrophe, which, it seems to me, can not be stopped … ” – Pavel Sheremet.

Pavel Sheremet studio a
Pavel hosted a daily news show on Radio Vesti.

Farewell to Pavel Sheremet

Pavel Sheremet was fond of saying that, “The world can be better…,” but right now we honestly wonder, how? When will the killing stop? Does journalism matter in a world so corrupt? Can transparency make a difference?

Pavel Sheremet radio
photo: Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe

Thanks to Meduza correspondent Katerina Gordeeva, a former Sheremet colleague who penned a wonderful tribute Wednesday afternoon in honour of her fallen friend. She recalled that, “The main thing about Pasha was his broad smile. And his belly laughs. Sheremet could laugh so hard, so contagiously and carefree, in a way it seems is possible only for children and those rare adults with a clear conscience….he believed quite childishly that the world can be changed for the better, if only you speak the truth.”

Pavel Sheremet c

In hindsight, it seems fitting that it was Pavel Sheremet who helped lead the memorial services for his friend, slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Boris was gunned down on the streets of Moscow in February 2015, just steps from the Kremlin. Pavel was killed by a car bomb Wednesday in the centre of Kyiv (Kiev) while on his way to host his daily radio show.

Pavel Sheremet hand

A farewell service is planned today (Friday) in Kyiv, after which it is expected that his body will be flown to Minsk, his birthplace. Belarus stripped Pavel of his citizenship after covering the massive citizen election protests of 2010, but Belarusian authorities are expected to allow a Паннихида (memorial service) to take place on Saturday in All Saints’ Church at 121 Kalinovskaya Street, at the corner of Kalinovskaya and Vsesvyatskaya in Minsk.

Minsk All Saints Church
All Saints Orthodox Church in Minsk, Belarus.

Pavel is expected to be laid to rest next to his father’s grave in Northern Cemetery, outside the city in the Minsk region, south of SD Yakubovich. Pavel is survived by his mother.

May God have mercy on his soul, and grant his servant Pavel eternal memory.

Car Bomb Kills Journalist in Ukraine

Pavel SheremetJust yesterday Pavel Sheremet had written an article about the new memorial monument recently erected in the closed nuclear city of Zheleznogorsk (Russia). On Wednesday morning he started his car and pulled out of the parking lot where he lived with fellow-journalist Olena Prytula. On the way to his new radio show, his car was idling at a traffic light in the centre of Kyiv (Kiev) when a bomb exploded, killing him instantly.

Only recently he had left Russian Television Channel ORT after mounting complaints on the content of his show from the Kremlin for his reporting on the annexation of Crimea, and the presence of Russian troops fighting with rebels in Eastern Ukraine.

He had been beaten and imprisoned due to his reports on the freedom protests in Belarus. Yet, Pavel was the kind of investigative journalist who seemed to fear nothing. He was unafraid of issuing critical reports which often angered the Kremlin in Russia, the dictatorship in his native home (Minsk) in Belarus, and the corrupt regime of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.

Sheremet had received numerous awards including the prestigious freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the prize for journalism and democracy from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation).

RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty is reporting that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has asked the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to assist Ukrainian investigators in the murder investigation in order to ensure “maximum transparency.”

Pavel will be missed. Memory eternal! Вечная память!



Coup in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government seemed threatened last night, but then it began to appear that the tide was turning. The coup, led by mid-ranking military leaders, seemingly has not been able to sustain their drive to force Erdogan from office.

Turkey airport coup
Military troops took over the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

Many world leaders have condemned the coup, including US president Barrack Obama. That is not surprising given Obama’s ties to the Islamic Brotherhood, a status shared by Erdogan. Over recent years Erdogan has moved to subvert the Turkish Constitution and has packed the courts with Islamic hardliners who share his vision of converting Turkey into a full-fledged Islamic Republic.

Erdogan has also replaced many top military leaders prior to the coup with those of his own choosing. Turkey’s Constitution actually authorizes for the military to perform checks and balances against any government that might wish to move from a secular state to an Islamic one. When Barrack Hussein Obama calls for Turkish citizens to honour the democratically elected government–perhaps he might wish to brush up on the Turkish founding documents first.

Turkish pres Erdogan
Turkish president Erdogan.

Erdogan is no friend of democracy and has systematically curtailed freedoms, including  harsh policies towards Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey.

One big question is what will Russia do during this time of Turkish instability? Turkey has the largest standing NATO allied military in Europe. Russia and Turkey have been at odds on everything from the Islamic state (ISIS) which often enjoys support by Erdogan, to the downing of Russian military aircraft over Turkish and Syrian airspace.

If there is a vacuum of any length, count on Vladimir Putin to try to fill it.



Fourth of July in Moscow

Spaso House 4th a

The 4th of July is celebrated in Moscow at Spaso House, the home of the US Ambassador to Russia since 1933. Spaso House is the Ambassador’s residence, not the Embassy, and is located at #10 Spasopeskovskaya Square.

If memory serves correctly, there is a precise 7-step formula for celebrating the 4th in America: beer-BBQ-beer-hamburgers/hotdogs-beer-potato salad (potatoe for you Brits)-beer. In that exact order. Parades, flags, fireworks, apple pie and ice cream, etc, are merely garnishments (patriotic styled condiments) to the above, and optional.
Spaso House 4th b
Not being much of a drinker, well aside from the obligatory vodka and champagne toasts at the New Year, so admittedly this editor is out of sync with the American precise 7-step formula. My quest to acquire an American beer was a failure. There was a “Union Jack” beer, but it represented the wrong side of that conflict.
Some readers might suggest that it would be appropriate to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” That was no help either. Jesus had class–he was a wine guy. You must admit that he didn’t turn the water into Bud Light any more than he turned it into Tang as some mistakenly believe. Judging from the comments recorded at the wedding feast, Jesus knew his wines.
Belgium ipa

With all other options exhausted, it was deemed necessary to settle for a Belgium IPA. Belgium succeeded in seceding (gawd, we are good!) from the Netherlands in 1830, and so it seemed that the revolutionary spirit might come alive in their “Rampant” Imperial IPA. Sadly, something is missing–maybe it is the fireworks-but if anyone wishes to try one, there is about half of a small 355ml bottle sitting in the fridge. Help yourself. It is time to join Jesus for a glass of wine.