The brazen assassination of a former Russian lawmaker in central Kyiv has raised concerns for the safety of other Kremlin critics who have taken refuge in Ukraine.
Denys Voronenkov, accompanied by a state-provided bodyguard, was gunned down in a volley of bullets about 11:30 a. m. on March 23 as he was walking outside Kyiv’s Premier Palace Hotel near the corner of Taras Shevchenko Boulevard and Pushkinska Street. His assassin was fatally shot by Voronenkov’s bodyguard.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the murder “an act of state terrorism,” squarely accusing his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, of carrying out the crime through his Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB. “Once again we have witnessed a textbook method of the Russian special forces, which we have repeatedly seen in various European capitals,” Poroshenko said in a statement.
The Kremlin dismissed the accusation as absurd.
After fleeing Russia for Ukraine six months ago, Voronenkov became a witness in Ukrainian’s high treason criminal case against ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia on Feb. 22, 2014, amid the EuroMaidan Revolution to oust him. Voronenkov testified in January and was scheduled to give more testimony.
His state bodyguard exchanged gunfire with the victim’s assassin, identified only as a Ukrainian citizen, mortally wounding him. The assassin died of his injuries hours later in a hospital. The bodyguard, an employee of Ukraine’s Department of State Guards, was wounded in the shootout. Authorities say he is recovering and cooperating with the police investigation.
Who was Voronenkov?
Voronenkov, 45, was a controversial politician who went from supporting Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 to vocal criticism of the Kremlin. Months before the assassination, he gave up his Russian citizenship for a Ukrainian passport.
The murder comes amid a series of recent assassinations of other Kremlin critics, in Russia and abroad. The most famous of the murders include those of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow in 2015 and the poisoning by radioactive polonium‑210 of former Russian FSB security service agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Voronenkov, who had a military background, had been in politics since 2000, moving between high- and middle-level offices before finally getting elected to Russia’s State Duma in 2011, where he represented the Communist Party until 2016, when he failed to get re-elected.