Former Ukrainian National Guardsman Identified as Killer of Russian MP Voronenkov in Kiev; Dies After Bodyguard Shoots Him

March 23, 2017
Law-enforcers crouch over the body of slain Russian MP Denis Voronenkov. Photo by EPA/UPG

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.


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed; 3 Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded in Battle; Ammunition Depot Explosion in Balakliya

Plume of smoke at the army base visible from the town of Balakliya. Photo by EPA 

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and 3 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded on the front line today, reported, citing the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] dispatch.

Russia-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions 84 times in the previous 24-hour period and 43 times during the day today.

On the Mariupol line, overnight and during the day, the worst fighting was around Shirokino where militiants fired heavy machine guns, grenade-launchers and anti-aircraft systems on Ukrainian positions as well as 82-mm and 120-mm mortary launchers and a BMP, then switched to using Grad missiles and tanks. An 82-mm mortar-launcher as well as 122-mm and later Grads were used near Vodyanoe; grenade-launchers and heavy machine guns were used near Krasnogorovka and Gnutovo as well as Pavlopol, Lebedinskoye, and Chermalyk. A sniper was active around Maryinka.
On the Donetsk line, Avdeyevka was most under attack from mortar-launchers, grenade-launchers, machine guns and anti-tank missile systems. Near Zaytsevo, 152-mm artillery was used

Explosion at Ammunitions Depot on Military Base in Kharkiv Region

An ammunitions depot has exploded on a military base at Balakliya (Balakleya) in Kharkiv Region early in the morning of March 23, and reported. There were no injuries reported.

Translation: Balakliya from above.

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, reported.

Military advisor Yuriy Biryukov said on his Facebook page that contrary to news reports, there was far less than 125,000 tons of ammunition at the site. Most of the ammunition stored were components removed from weapons and dismantled. While the cement bunkers on the site still stand, all the other buildings have burned down.

More than 360 firefighters from around Ukraine rushed to the area, bringing 55 water tanks to douse the flames.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak and Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios have called the explosion “an extention of Russia’s hybrid war” in Ukraine, which makes use of overt warfare as well as covert sabotage operations and disinformation.

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.

Житель Балаклеи забрал из дома кота и рассказал о ситуации в городе

Details… →

Mar 24, 2017 08:39 (GMT)

Former Ukrainian National Guardsman Identified as Killer of Russian MP Voronenkov in Kiev; Dies After Bodyguard Shoots Him

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.

The gunman pumped 4 bullets into Voronenkov as he walked along the sidewalk near the Premier Palace Hotel, injuring also Voronenkov’s bodyguard, who was nevertheless able to get off two shots to the assassin’s chest and head, reported. The killer later died on the operating table.

Voronenkov announced in February that he had fled Russia in October 2016, saying his homeland under President Vladimir Putin had “become like Nazi Germany”. 

Set as default press image
2017-03-24 02:27:30

Anton Gerashchenko, an MP and advisor to the Interior Ministry said in an interview with TV 1+1 that the killer, who had Ukrainian citizenship had served 13 months in Ukraine’s National Guard, but also claimed that he had trained in Russia in 2014 for a special operation to infiltrate Ukraine’s National Guard. His fellow servicemen are being questioned. Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko confirmed that the killer had National Guard ID on him when he was found.
Ukrainan law-enforcers have said there are two theories about his murder: 1) revenge for his giving of testimony against deposed president Viktor Yanukovich or 2) revenge for his involvement in investigation of a contraband case in which Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents were suspects, reported. Voronenkov had said the suspects even included Oleg Feoktistov, former deputy head of the FSB and currently the head of Rosneft security. 
Lutsenko came to the scene of the crime, as did Vasily Hritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU); Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios also arrived.  Voronenkov’s guards bought his widow, Mariya Maksakova, to see her slain husband, reported.
The SBU have taken Maksakova and Ilya Ponomarev, another Russian MP who fled Russia and has been staying in Ukraine, under protection. Ponomarev said on his Facebook page that Voronenkov had been on his way to meet him when he was murdered.

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.

Russia denied any involvement in the murder, and blamed Ukraine, saying it was a contract murder “with all the signs of a demonstrative action.”
Voronenkov, a member of the Russian Duma in the Communist faction, known for his conservative views and was accused of involvement in a number of criminal affairs, the independent Russian news site Novaya Gazeta reported. 
Novaya Gazeta investigative journalists found his offshore accounts among others in the Panama Papers. Voronenko died any wrong-doing and told RBC at the time that this was a “Western intelligence provocaiton.”
Russian journalists were skeptical of his status as a critic of the Kremlin, accusing him of opportunism although Voronenkov called the seizure of Crimea “a mistake” and “illegal” in an interview with RFE/RL. Only one member of parliament, Igor Ponomarev, voted against the annexation; Voronenkov said he was absent that day and another legislator cast a vote for him. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov challenged his story.

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.”

Ilya Ponomarev said “he was not a crook, but an investigator, mortally dangerous for Russian siloviki“. 

In recent interviews, Voronenko told Western reporters that he feared for his life.

Russian and Ukrainian social media users are recalling that Voronenkov’s death was predicted.

Back on February 22, the Russian Urals news site 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 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.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Note: The Interpreter has lost its funding!

Donate to this author to keep news and translations coming.