The Cable

Former Russian MP Shot Dead in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Poroshenko blames state terrorism by Russia; Kremlin spokesperson Peskov says that’s “absurd.”

denis

Former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov was shot dead outside the Premier Palace Hotel in Kiev on Thursday. He had fled to Ukraine in Oct. 2016 with his wife, also a former Russian lawmaker, and was living there as a Ukrainian citizen, where he was openly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the former president of Ukraine, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych.

He was reportedly on his way to meet Ilya Ponomarev, also a former Russian MP, and the one Duma member to vote against the Russian annexation of Crimea. Voronenkov himself voted for Crimean annexation as a member of the Communist party in the State Duma, rendering the decision to give him Ukrainian citizenship a controversial one.

On Facebook, Ponomarev wrote, “I have no words. The security guard was able to injure the attacker. The potential theory is obvious. Voronenko was not a crook, but an investigator who was fatally dangerous to Russian authorities.”

The security guard was wounded. The assassin died in the hospital. There was, at least initially, no word on his identity.

Various sides were quick to place the blame. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko released a statement saying, “The underhand murder of Denys Voronenkov in the center of Kyiv is an act of state terrorism by Russia, which Denys Voronenkov was forced to leave for political reasons.” The statement calls the killing a “textbook method of the Russian special forces,” and continues, “Voronenkov was one of the main witnesses of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and particularly the role of Viktor Yanukovych in the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian troops.”

Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesperson Artem Shevchenko said Kiev police were charged with the investigation into what the Interior Ministry is calling an assassination. He also said, “absolutely the beneficiary of the murder is Russia.”

Voronenko himself expected some sort of retaliation from Russia. “There’s been a demonization of us in Russia,” he said in an interview on Tuesday night, adding, “It’s hard to imagine we will be forgiven.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov, on the other hand, called the idea that Russian agents were involved “absurd,” and said that it demonstrates that Ukraine cannot provide security.

The attack comes two days after Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer hired by the family of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian whistleblower who died in jail after exposing corruption, was mysteriously injured after falling from his fourth-floor apartment. An anonymous Russian law enforcement officer was quoted as saying there was no “criminal element” involved, but the timing — that he “fell” a day before he was to testify in the Moscow City Appeals Court against another court’s decision not to reinvestigate the corruption case for which Magnitsky died — is, to say the least, suspicious.

Photo credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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