Photo from UNIAN, Viktor Kovalchuk

Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv has left in custody ruled to further hold in custody former Donbas war volunteer and musician AKA "Riffmaster" Andrii Antonenko, a suspect in the murder case of journalist Pavel Sheremet.

Today, December 17, the jury considered the motion by Antonenko's lawyer Dmytro Kruhovyi to ease the measure of restraint for his client, an UNIAN correspondent reports.

At the start of today's hearing, the court did not allow guarantors, MPs, friends and family of Andrii Antonenko, including his mother and brother, into the courtroom, while allowing reporters from several media outlets to attend.

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Having heard the arguments of both parties, the court ruled to overrule the motion despite a doctor's testimony on Antonenko's health condition, including issues with blood vessels, and on the health risks associated with his further custody remand, as well as the lawyers' claim that Antonenko could have contracted COVID-19 while in custody as other cases of coronavirus have already been recorded in the detention center.

Read alsoSheremet case: Ankle monitor removed from suspect KuzmenkoAt the same time, the court ordered that the chief of the relevant pre-trial detention facility ensure Antonenko's right to proper medical care.

The next hearing has been scheduled for January 12, 2021.

Sheremet murder case: Details

The journalist was assassinated in a car blast in the center of Kyiv on the morning of July 20, 2016.

On December 12, 2019, police said they suspected five persons of complicity in the crime: former Donbas war volunteer and musician Andrii Antonenko, army volunteer and pediatric surgeon Yulia Kuzmenko (nom de guerre "Lysa," or "Fox"), nurse with a paratrooper unit Yana Duhar, and a family couple of army volunteers Inna Hryshchenko ("Puma"), and Vladyslav Hryshchenko ("Bucha"). Law enforcers claim that the goal of Sheremet's assassination was to destabilize the social and political situation in Ukraine. Antonenko, Kuzmenko, and Duhar were notified of suspicion on December 12, 2019.

Ukrainian investigative journalists with the project said they had found the forensic analysis report used in the probe into the murder of Sheremet far from being unambiguous, while evidence presented by the police was not convincing. What is more, many Ukrainian activists consider the proof collected by the investigators to be insufficient.

On August 25, all three defendants demanded in court that their case be heard by the jury. Holub, the chair of the panel of judges, said that since they all were facing life imprisonment, the Criminal Code allows such cases to be heard by a jury, which consists of two professional judges and three members of the jury.

On September 28, the prosecutor in the Sheremet case read out the indictment to Antonenko, Kuzmenko and Duhar in Kyiv's Shevchenkivsky district court.