Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fugitive MP who criticised Kremlin shot dead in Kiev

Investigators inspect the body of Denis Voronenkov, who was shot dead in Kiev yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Investigators inspect the body of Denis Voronenkov, who was shot dead in Kiev yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Roland Oliphant in Moscow

Ukraine's president accused the Kremlin of "state terrorism" after a fugitive Russian MP who had denounced the annexation of Crimea was gunned down in the centre of Kiev.

Denis Voronenkov, a former member of the State Duma, Russia's lower house, was shot dead near an upscale hotel as he set off for a meeting with another Kremlin critic yesterday morning. The attacker also wounded Mr Voronenkov's bodyguard, who shot back and injured the assailant. Police said both were "critically ill" in hospital.

President Petro Poroshenko said the killing was "an act of state terrorism on the part of Russia, which [Voronenkov] was forced to leave for political reasons".

"Mr Voronenkov was one of the main witnesses of Russian aggression against Ukraine and, in particular, the role of [former Ukrainian president Viktor] Yanukovych regarding the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine," he said in a statement.

Russia immediately denied the accusation. "We believe that all the falsehoods that can already be heard about much-hyped Russian involvement are absurd," said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman.

Mr Voronenkov (45) was elected to the Duma as an MP for the Russian Communist Party in 2011. He and his wife Maria Maksakova, an opera singer and MP with the United Russia party, resigned from parliament and moved to Ukraine in October.

In interviews after he arrived in Kiev, Mr Voronenkov said the family had to leave Russia because of persecution by the Russian security services. He was placed on a Russian federal wanted list in connection with an alleged $5m (€4.6m) property fraud after he left the country.

A Kremlin loyalist during his parliamentary career, Mr Voronenkov became an outspoken critic of the Russian government from exile, denouncing the annexation of Crimea, taking a Ukrainian passport, and testifying as a witness in a treason case against Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-leaning ex president ousted in a revolution in 2014.

The Ukrainian Security Service said it would provide close protection for Ms Maksakova and Ilya Ponomarev, another former MP who was the only member of the Duma to vote against the annexation of Crimea.

Mr Voronenkov said in an interview shortly before his death he feared for his life.

He told the 'Washington Post': "There's been a demonisation of us in Russia. It is hard to say what will happen."

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