Ukrainian journalist dies from attack

Vadym Komarov

KIEV — A Ukrainian anti-corruption activist and journalist who reported on organized crime died on Thursday from wounds sustained in an attack two months ago, police said.

Vadym Komarov was beaten in May in the city of Cherkasy where he worked, around 200 km from Kiev. He suffered serious head injuries and fell into a coma.

He died in hospital early Thursday, Ukraine's police chief Sergiy Knyazev said.

Investigators are working to establish if he was attacked because of his work, interior ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko said.

They are also considering whether the attackers could have had a personal conflict with the journalist or acted for financial gain.

Police have questioned more than 1,300 people in the case but have failed to identify the attackers, Knyazev said.

Komarov reported on corruption and organized crime in Cherkasy and had been attacked before, local media said.

Reporters Without Borders said it was "shocked" by Komarov's death.

"We demand from the police a rapid investigation to find those who are guilty," Oksana Romaniuk, the head of Ukraine's Institute of Mass Information, an NGO, wrote on Facebook.

The US embassy in Ukraine said on Twitter it was "deeply saddened" by the journalist's death and urged "a thorough, transparent investigation" into the attack.

Harlem Desir, media freedom chief for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said that "impunity would be a victory for those who wanted to silence Komarov and to intimidate the press."

Journalists have relative freedom of speech in Ukraine, which has a wide range of media, but security remains a concern. Attacks on reporters are not uncommon and the perpetrators are often not found.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, ranks 102nd out of 180 countries in a world ranking of media freedom by Reporters Without Borders.

Ukrainian journalists say censorship and threats are among the main challenges to freedom of speech in the country, according to the results of a survey published on Thursday.

In November 2018, Ukrainian anti-corruption campaigner Kateryna Gandzyuk died after attackers poured about a liter of acid on her several months earlier.

Journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed by a car bomb in 2016 while driving near his home in Kiev.

In 2000, the founder of the respected news site Ukrainska Pravda, Georgiy Gongadze, was kidnapped and found beheaded in a forest outside Kiev. Ukraine has jailed the killers but the masterminds have never been brought to justice. — AFP