Ukraine Day 1130: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. A Ukrainian National Guardsman has been identified as the killer of Russian MP Denis Voronenkov, who fled to Kiev citing Putin’s oppression last year.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Plume of smoke at the army base visible from the town of Balakliya. Photo by EPA
Russia-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions 84 times in the previous 24-hour period and 43 times during the day today.
Explosion at Ammunitions Depot on Military Base in Kharkiv Region
Fire broke out over night and ammunition and shells began exploding, continuing to fly around the area for hours. Authorities evacuated about 20,000 people from the town, Liga.net reported.
More than 360 firefighters from around Ukraine rushed to the area, bringing 55 water tanks to douse the flames.
But unofficially, law-enforcers say ordinary negligence could have been to blame, and there may have been an effort to blow up the depot deliberately to disguise the theft of weapons sold on the black market, TSN reported.
A video uploaded by TV 112 shows a man describing the explosion and how he rescued his cat. Other townspeople can be seen leaving the area with baggage.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko (L) looks on as Maria Maksakova, widow of slain Russian MP Denis Voronenkov (C) crumples at the sight of her husband’s body. Photo by Volodimir Sologub/Hromadske
Denis Voronenkov, a Russian member of parliament who fled to Ukraine and was granted citizenship there, was assassinated this morning by a former National Guardsman, Ukrainian and Western media reported.
Voronenkov announced in February that he had fled Russia in October 2016, saying his homeland under President Vladimir Putin had “become like Nazi Germany”.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the murder a “Russian state terrorist act,” CNN reported, noting that Voronenkov is the latest in a string of Russian critics of of President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin who were killed or injured. In Pavel Sheremet, a Belarusian journalist who fled Minsk and took Russian citizenship was assassinated in Kiev, where he had obtained asylum. No progress has been made on the investigation of the murder, believed related to his writing on sensitive topics.
One of his last known public acts in Russia before fleeing was to condemn people who played Pokemon Go in or near churches and to urge the Russian censor to ban the game in Russia, which he said “agencies responsible for psychological warfare in the US” were using to create “an image of a future war corresponding to the maximum the goals and interests of Washington”.
Said Novaya Gazeta (translation by The Interpreter):
All the acquaintances of Voronenkov in Russia interviewed by us were certain: the former deputy fled the country because he himself was to face prosecution.” These acquaintances claimed Voronenkov had been mentioned in several major criminal cases but escaped justice each time due to his ties with high-ranking officials.
Another case involved illegal financing in the 2011 elections.
Voronenkov also served in the Federal Narcotics Service (FSKN) as a secret agent and obtained the rank of major there. He was said to have some relationship to the infamous “Three Whales” case, although Novaya Gazeta did not find his name in records and an FSKN official denied his involvement.
But in Ukraine, Poroshenko called him “a key witness against Yanukovych”, CNN reported. Lutsenko called his killing “a demonstration execution of a witness.”
Russian and Ukrainian social media users are recalling that Voronenkov’s death was predicted.
Back on February 22, the Russian Urals news site Ura.ru published an article titled “Kiev is Preparing a Demonstrative Murder of Maksakova,” with a forecast by military expert Aleksandr Zhilin, who said Ukraine would “first make the married couple popular in the news space, and then subject them to brutal reprisals”.
Another news site Dni.ru quoted Zhilin as saying, “Maksakova will go first, since she is a famous singer and a representative of high art, who could only be deprived of life by an insane beast.”
Zhilin called the couple “sacrificial lambs” on his Facebook page, a concept often invoked by Russian government officials in floating “false flag” theories about the murders of their critics.