LIVE UPDATES: Yevgeny Zhilin, a Ukrainian critic of EuroMaidan and leader of the Oplot [Stronghold] organization in Kharkiv was murdered in a Moscow suburban cafe yesterday.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
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Zhilin had gone to Veterok, a restaurant in the affluent Moscow suburb Gorki-2. The killer was waiting for him in the restaurant, fired several times with a pistol, then fled the scene.
A rash of assassinations notably in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic have sparked speculation that either there is infighting among the separatists or that Russian military intelligence kills them to remove those who “know too much” about the Russian invasion and related war crimes. While this is always possible, given how many figures Russian intelligence has actually kept alive and redeployed in various conflicts from Chechnya to Georgia to Moldova, it’s not necessarily the rule that Russian security remove agents or friendly forces they’ve invested in.
The pro-Russian blogger Colonel Cassad commented that Zhilin was not likely to have been killed due to some internal DNR dispute as he no longer was involved in DNR affairs and had little influence over them.
In any event, Zhilin had fled from Ukraine to Russia last year when Ukrainian authorities prepared a criminal case against him.
According to his own web site, Zhilin was jailed after the Orange Revolution from 2005-2007 on charges of setting an explosive in the car of Gennday Kernes, secretary of the Kharkiv City Council. He also appeared as a witness in the case of the poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko. Ultimately, Zhilin was released and acquitted and was even given compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Kernes himself was a vocal supporter of Oplot.
At that time, Zhilin released an inflammatory video denouncing the Maidan activists and portraying them as violent rebels toppling Lenin statutes for no good reason, and then overthrowing the regime.
He was said once to brag that he had cut off the ear of a Maidan protester, and claimed that he could “tear off their leg, and nothing will happen to me over that,” Espreso TV reported.
On February 26, 2015, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General opened a criminal case against Oplot as an “unlawful armed formation” and declared Zhilin wanted. Then for a time then Zhilin appeared as a senior economic advisor in the DNR.
In March 2015, during an inspection by the Kharkiv Region prosecutor’s office of the finances of the Kharkiv City Council, it was determined that from the period of 2012-2014, Zhilin had allegedly embezzled more than 1 billion hryvnia ($38.8 million), siphoning public funds, including 100 million hryvnia from utilities in Kharkiv, to various fictitious companies. Zhilin was then declared wanted and in January 2016, an order for his arrest was issued on charges that included kidnapping, and conspiracy by a group of persons to commit physical harm.
After the Maidan protests, Colonel Cossad said Zhilin was one of only two people at a convention of the Party of Regions in Kharkiv who called for “open resistance to the junta”. His contribution to the “cause of the Russian Spring” was “rather substantial” — Zhilin was among those who at the very early stage of the uprising helped to organize people, many of whom later formed the militia of the Donbass, he said.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The ruble is trading at 64.84 to the dollar and 72.45 to the euro. Brent crude is selling at $45.61 per barrel.
The following headlines are drawn from 7:40 na Perrone; Currenttime TV, Novaya Gazeta, Interfax, and Meduza.
What We’re Reading
– Russia’s Lost Liberals by Denis Volkov [Russian]
– The Regime After the Elections by Dmitry Travin [Russian]
– Russia’s Parliamentary Elections: Outcomes and Implications. Video of CSIS conference featuring Jeffrey Mankoff, Dmitry Gudkov, Henry Hale, Evgeny Michenko, Andrei Pivovarov, and Ilya Ponomarev [English]
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick