Ukraine Day 1131: 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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A resident of Avdeyevka points out a damaged home to a Ukrainian soldier on March 18. Photo by ATO.
In its dispatch at 18:00, the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] reported that two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in battle today (one near Troitskoye) and one civilian was injured in Avdeyevka. Russia-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions 48 times during the day, mainly near Donetsk.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission recorded an increase in explosions in the past week by 75% compared to the previous week, and recorded up to 145 explosions in the Lugansk area related evidently to separatist training exercises, Liga.net reported.
o EXPLOSIONS CONTINUE AT AMMUNITIONS DEPOT
Explosions were still being heard as of 14:25 Kiev time at the ammunitions depo in Balakliya, Liga.net reported. Gordonua.com said at about midnight Kiev time that there were about one explosion every five minutes still.
In an article published by Liga.net, Vitaliy Deynega, founder of the Return Alive fund said only missiles no longer needed in Ukraine’s arsenals detonated. The most valuable explosives were kept in bunkers underground and officials are waiting to see if they are still intact as expected.
Deynega also criticized Ukraine’s munitions industry as a whole, which works on the principle “we only sell what we can produce” and makes items of poor quality. Western companies are not in the Ukrainian market, which would help create competition, he noted.
“Ukroboronprom [Ukrainian defense production agency] continues to sit like a cancerous tumor between manufacturers and buyers.” The closed market may suit those who can lobby the sale of their products and profit, but it is not good for the industry itself, he said. Worst of all, in the fourth year of war, Ukraine does not have its own ammunitions factory.
His views “did not affect him as a soldier” and he “did not propagandize” his views or violate disciplinary rules, said the soldiers.
“He earned a good reputation as a soldier, did not use alcohol, did sports and was well-prepared for military service,” they said. “He showed himself to be a decisive person, prepared for risk.” But they couldn’t say whether he was in combat and noted that the time of his service coincided with a relatively calm period. These soldiers also reported that he went AWOL, but didn’t know what he was doing after he left the army; they had heard he was involved with the movement of soccer fans.
He said he had lived in fear that he could be kidnapped and brought back to Russia and that was the reason he decided to publicize in February the fact that he had fled from Russia last October.
He noted that he decided to flee when Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said there was testimony “from two deputies of the Russian State Duma” in the case of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych. One of them was Ilya Ponomarev, who had left Russia some years before and was known. Although Lutsenko did not provide the names of these MPs, Russian intelligence was able to figure out that the second one was Voronenkov because he was already under surveillance.
Voronenkov commented that Andrei Lugovoy, the FSB agent wanted by British police for the poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko, whom he met in the past, was now himself guarded by the 6th Service of the FSB’s Directorate of Internal Security. This is the same unit that Voronenkov believed had falsified a criminal case against him.
He said there was “obvious mental degradation” in Russia where the idea that murder was for the good had returned. “Russia is a state that destroys people this way,” but concluded “What now, live in constant fear?”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
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A video has emerged of the murder in Kiev of Russian MP Denis Voronenkov, who had fled to Ukraine last October saying he feared reprisals from Russian intelligence.
Kiev Police Chief Andrei Krishchenko said the murder was likely a contract killed, Moscow Times reported.
“What does that tell us? Voronenkov was murdered not by a professional killer, but a random kid who decided to earn some cash. A real killer would not carry ID on him.”
Solving the murder of Voronenkov was “a matter of technology” he added but that “the law-enforcement system in Ukraine virtual doesn’t function.”
Voronenkov, a former Russian narcotics investigator who became an MP in 2001, is believed to have been a target of vengeful FSB agents who he had accused of smuggling. Yet Novaya Gazeta has reported that Voronenkov himself, who had an off-shore accounts exposed in the Panama Papers, may have engaged in illegal activity.
He was also a target of opposition anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, who did an expose video of him last month.
Kiev police believe the motive for Voronenkov’s murder was either as revenge for his expose of the FSB’s involvement in contraband, or revenge for his testimony against deposed president Viktor Yanukovych. Either version would lead to a hypothesis of involvement of Russian intelligence in his death.
Voronenkov was both a loss — and a political embarrassment — for Russia and a gain for Ukraine. Voronenkov was believed to have connections to high officials; he said he paid “frequent visits” to the Kremlin.
Navalny said Sergei Naryshkin, former speaker of the State Duma, sang at Voronenkov’s wedding a few months ago, celebrated as an “inter-factional union” as his widow, Mariya Maksakova, a prominent singer, was identified with United Russia, the ruling party.
Sasha Sotnik, a journalist who himself was forced to flee Russia due to death threats commented, “Any defector from the system will be eliminated.”
Current parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Kiev was “sliding toward a terrorist government” and said the claim of Russian involvement should only have been made after thorough investigation by police.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick