Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian MP and an outspoken opponent of Putin’s regime has been killed in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Thursday.
Voronenkov openly spoke against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policies. He was shot three times outside the upmarket Premier Palace hotel. The assailant, who was armed with a pistol, later died in hospital after being shot by Voronenkov’s bodyguard.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said the murder is an ‘act of state terrorism’ by Russia. The former Russian MP criticized Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and was a key witness in a treason case against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich who was ousted in a coup in 2014.
Voronenkov, who had been granted Ukrainian citizenship, fled from Russian in 2016. He had been a member of the Russian Communist Party and his wife was an MP in the ruling United Russia party.
“He told me he was receiving threats from the FSB,” Ilya Ponomarev, another former MP who has also fled Russia, told the Guardian by telephone from Kiev. “To be honest, I had thought he was being a bit paranoid.”
Several Ukrainian officials called the murder as a Kremlin plot, with the prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, writing on Facebook that it was “typical public Kremlin punishment of a witness”.
He also said Voronenkov had already given testimony that implicated Yanukovych in providing cover for Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014, and is believed to be residing in Russia.
Voronenkov was the only MP in the Russia Duma who voted against the annexation of Crimea. Authorities in Russia had put him on a wanted list for alleged connections with $5m property fraud. He was later given Ukrainian citizenship.
In response to the event, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said it was absurd to look for a link to Moscow in the killing.
“Regarding the reaction of the Ukrainian authorities and media, who, within an hour after the incident already have put the blame on the Russian Federation…. This puts an end to any unprejudiced and objective investigation of this murder,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova.
Photograph: Oleksandr Synytsia/AP