Updated at 19:56,22-01-2021

'The world can be better': a tribute to journalist Pavel Sheremet

Katerina Gordeeva for Meduza, part of the New East network / The Guardian

A former colleague remembers the irrepressible reporter, who was killed on Wednesday morning by a car bomb in Kiev

A portrait of Pavel Sheremet is surrounded with flowers at the place of his death in Kiev. Photograph: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP
Katerina Gordeeva for Meduza, part of the New East network
Wednesday 20 July 2016 16.17 BST Last modified on Wednesday 20 July 2016 16.38 BST
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Pavel Sheremet’s biography tells the story of a whole generation of journalists in the former Soviet Union who have lost their jobs – and in some cases, their lives – due to their work.

Car bomb kills pioneering journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kiev
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But unlike many others, after every obstruction Sheremet reinvented himself. With his broad smile, and his contagious laughter, he was guided by the unshakeable conviction that some day journalism would be needed in the countries that were doing their best to suppress it.

Sheremet was born in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, and came to journalism from the world of economics. Before switching careers, he worked as a financial consultant for local reporters. It wasn’t long before he became involved journalism himself, first as the editor of a newspaper, Belarus Business News, and then as an anchor and producer for Prospekt, a news analysis program on state television that was banned by president Alexander Lukashenko in 1995

For his explosive 1997 report about the virtual absence of a guarded border between Belarus and Lithuania, he was arrested, imprisoned for three months and deported.

But none of this broke him. He talked about his time in prison calmly, and without anguish. He loved and pitied the homeland he was forced to leave.

Until his death, Sheremet (who lost his Belarusian citizenship in 2010) wrote about events in his home country on his website, Belarusian Partisan. He liked to call people on the phone and introduce himself by saying: “Hello, this is Belarusian partisan Pavel Sheremet. I’ve got a question.”

It always seemed like this man, who had so much energy and such big plans, could manage anything.

'The world can be better': a tribute to journalist Pavel Sheremet

Journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was killed by a car bomb in Kiev. Photograph: Dmytro Larin/AFP/Getty Images
Whatever he was working on, people wanted to take part. Because, whether he was a famous journalist at the country’s biggest TV network or an unemployed journalist freelancing to keep food on his plate, Sheremet talked to you the same way. He always had a broad smile and the unwavering belief that good will overcome evil in the end.

Twice denied the chance to work as a journalist – both in Belarus and in Russia –Sheremet often said that he felt free and safe in Kiev, the place he had made his home for five years before his death in a car bomb attack in the Ukrainian capital this morning.

“[Ukraine] has changed and will continue to change,” he wrote in one of his last Facebook posts. It seemed of late as if Sheremet had become captivated with the country once again. He was inspired by the young Ukrainian political party, the Democratic Alliance, was working for a newspaper and in local radio and television and was even opening a new school of journalism.

Sheremet had a complicated relationship with Russia, too. The last time he appeared in public there was for the funeral of his friend, the opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov [who was shot dead in 2015 in Moscow]. Sheremet led the memorial service.

That same day, the television station Dozhd aired the last thing Sheremet would produce for Russian TV: a documentary celebrating Nemtsov’s 50th birthday. There was nothing surprising about the fact that these two men were friends; they were, after all, very much alike.

After Nemtsov’s murder, Pasha often said that the final thread connecting him to Russia and Moscow had snapped. He said that he would never go back, though he ended up returning, anyway. He explained: “I can’t accustom myself to the idea that I don’t care.”

Pavel Sheremet loved his friends, he loved vodka, and he told wonderfully obscene jokes. He believed quite childishly that the world can be changed for the better, if only you speak the truth.

This text was translated from Russian by Kevin Rothrock. A version of this article originally appeared on Meduza