An assassination attempt on a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was reportedly being lined up to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv, was orchestrated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Oleg Tsaryov, an ex-MP and Moscow-backed anti-Kyiv separatist is in a serious condition after being shot in Crimea in the early hours of Friday morning, his family said in a statement on his Telegram channel.

“Around midnight, he was shot twice on the territory of the resort where he lives,” the statement said.

“Oleg was unconscious and had lost a lot of blood,” it added.

A source in the SBU told Kyiv Post: "He has long been on the list of traitors who must answer for their crimes. Tsarev is an absolutely legitimate target.

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"This is not just a fanatic of the 'Russian world' but a person who personally came together with Russian tanks to seize Kyiv."

Tsaryov, 53, was a pro-Russia lawmaker in Ukraine's parliament before a 2013-2014 revolution swept a pro-European government to power in Kyiv.

After Russia responded by seizing Crimea and civil war broke out, he became a separatist leader in eastern Ukraine.

According to several reports, United States intelligence agencies believe the Kremlin was considering Tsaryov as a possible choice to lead a puppet government in Kyiv if its offensive succeeded in removing President Zelensky.

Ukraine, the US and several other Western countries have sanctioned Tsaryov, AFP reports.

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“Kyiv will be free of fascists... Victory is inevitable,” he wrote on his Telegram page on February 24, 2022 – the day Russian forces were sent into Ukraine.

Russia's investigative committee said it had opened a criminal investigation into the "attempted assassination".

It added the attack took place in Crimea, the southern Ukrainian peninsula Moscow annexed from Kyiv in 2014.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops towards the Ukrainian capital at the start of its assault and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for Ukraine's army to remove Zelensky in a coup d'etat.

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