Former Russian lawmaker shot dead in Ukraine

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. FEBRUARY 17, 2016. State Duma member Denis Voronenkov at a plenary session of the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament. Anna Isakova/State Duma Press Office/TASS (Photo by Anna IsakovaTASS via Getty Images)

A former Russian lawmaker who became a vociferous critic of Moscow following his recent move to Ukraine was shot and killed in Kiev on Thursday, prompting another war of words between the two countries. Denis Voronenkov, who testified to Ukrainian investigators and criticised Russian policies after his move to Kiev last fall, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman near the entrance of an upscale hotel in the Ukrainian capital.

During the attack, Voronenkov’s bodyguard, who fired back, was wounded. Both were hospitalised but Ukrainian officials said the gunman, who they claimed was a Ukrainian citizen, later died from wounds in his chest and head.

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Footage following the exchange of gunfire showed the three men lying on the sidewalk. Voronenkov’s bodyguard, a Ukrainian security services officer, was seen rolling on the ground and then being helped to an ambulance by paramedics. The killing prompted an angry exchange between the two countries whose relations have soured badly in recent years following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Voronenkov’s killing was an “act of state terrorism” that “clearly shows the handwriting of Russian special services shown repeatedly in various European capitals in the past.” In a statement released by his spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, Poroshenko described the victim as a key witness who gave testimony about “Russian aggression” to the Ukrainian authorities.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed the claim as “absurd” in a statement carried by Russian news agencies. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further, saying the “killer regime” in Kiev “will do its best to make sure that no one will ever know the truth about what happened.”

Several hours after Voronenkov was killed, a team of investigators and police were seen working at the front door of the Premier Palace hotel, which is frequented by Kiev’s rich and powerful. The patch of the pavement by the door where he died was wet from water utility workers had used to wash away bloodstains.

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Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, said Voronenkov was killed shortly before a meeting with another fugitive Russian lawmaker, Ilya Ponomaryov.Both men were scheduled to give testimony later in the day at Ukraine’s Military Prosecutor’s Office. The purpose of the testimony was not immediately clear.

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