By Lindsey DeLorie, International News Writer
On Thursday March 23rd Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker was shot dead in Kiev, Ukraine. Before fleeing Russia, Voronenkov was a member of the Duma, a lower legislative house within the Russian government. Voronenkov was an outspoken critic of Putin and the Kremlin and fled Russia to Ukraine with his wife in October. Voronenkov’s wife, Maria Maksakova, was also a Russian lawmaker who criticized Putin. Voronenkov was extremely outspoken about the Russian annexation of Ukraine in 2014. In February, Voronenkov made remarks surrounding Russia’s actions regarding Ukraine as “illegal” and “a mistake” during an interview on Radio Free Europe. Voronenkov also informed Radio Free Europe of his involvement in the case against former Ukrainian president, Yanukovych. Yanukovych is accused of treason and assisting in Russia’s annexation of Ukraine after he fled the country after the violent protests in Euromaidan in 2014.
Current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has called the attack a “Russian state terrorist attack,” according to CNN. Poroshenko also referred to Voronenkov as “one of the key witnesses of the Russian aggression against Ukraine”. This accusation led to Putin’s spokespeople stating that any claims about Russia being at all connected to the attack were ridiculous. Details about the attacker are still unclear. Voronenkov was shot in broad daylight in front of the Premier Palace Hotel in Kiev. The attacker was then shot by Voronenkov’s body guard and subsequently died in a nearby hospital. Information regarding the identity of the attacker has yet to be released.
In the official record of the Kremlin, Voronenkov’s support of the Russian annexation of Ukraine in 2014 was shown in a vote in the Russian Duma. Voronenkov informed Radio Free Europe that this was done against his will and he never supported the annexation. He stated he was not present at the Duma on the day of the vote, yet it reflects in the record he voted in favor of the annexation. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, made a statement discrediting Voronenkov’s claims on Radio Free Europe. Peskov stated that Voronenkov and his wife’s statements were inaccurate. Russian authorities charged Voronenkov with fraud, which Voronenkov had dismissed as fake charges for political purposes. Voronenkov and his wife fled Russia after these incidents and became Ukrainian citizens.
Ukranian Prosecutor General, Yuri Lutsenko, stated the killing of Voronenkov was “a demonstrative killing of a witness”. Voronenkov had reportedly given intel to Ukraine’s military prosecutors. Voronenkov informed Radio Free Europe he would give testimony in court regarding the Ukrainian Russian conflict. Voronenkov had yet to testify in court before being attacked and killed on March 23rd.
Voronenkov isn’t the only Kremlin critic to come to a mysterious and untimely death. There have been instances of strange deaths and injuries surrounding critics of the Kremlin and Putin going back to 2006. The most recent instance was of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent anti-Putin activist who was in a coma after suspected poisoning last month. His friend Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under President Yeltsin, was also killed in 2015, after being shot in the back in Moscow.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th print edition.
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