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KIEV, March 23. /TASS/. Former communist member of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Denis Voronenkov was killed in a shootout in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev on Thursday. According to Kiev city police chief Andrei Krishchenko, the murder took place at the entrance to the Premier-Palace Hotel at around 12:00 local time (10:00 GMT) when Voronenkov was walking out of the hotel together with his bodyguard.
At this moment, a man wearing a balaclava came up to Voronenkov and fired several shots at him from a TT pistol. The attacker also injured his bodyguard who managed to fire a return shot.
Both the killer and the bodyguard were taken to hospital, the killer later died of wounds.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry opened a criminal case into Voronenkov’s murder while the Prosecutor General ordered the Kiev Prosecutor’s Office to conduct an investigation. The press service of the Kiev Prosecutor’s Office elaborated that a criminal case had been launched under the Ukrainian Criminal Code’s article concerning willful murder. An inter-agency investigation team comprising representatives of the city prosecutor’s office and police has been set up. Besides, officers of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) are also expected to take part in the investigation. "A number of forensic and ballistic tests are planned to be carried out," a source in the Kiev police said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko said that the killer had suffered chest and head wounds adding that a penetrating head wound had not allowed to carry out any investigative actions. A Ukrainian passport was found on him.
Adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister Anton Gerashchenko later confirmed that the killer had been identified as a Ukrainian citizen. "The fact that the killer has been identified will help advance the investigation," he said.
Ukraine’s Obozrevatel (or Observer) media outlet reported citing its own sources that the killer, born in 1988, had been wanted over fake entrepreneurship and money laundering.
Right after the murder occurred, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said that it most likely was a target killing.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko likened Voronenkov’s murder to the fact that he had testified in the case against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accused of high treason. "This is a cynical murder of one of the witnesses in the case against ex-president Yanukovich. A former member of the State Duma Denis Voronenkov, who provided extremely important testimony to the military prosecutor's office, has been shot dead in broad daylight. However, Voronenkov was not the only witness out of the Russian officials," Lutsenko wrote on Facebook.
According to the prosecutor general, on Thursday, Voronenkov was to give testimony at the military prosecutor's office. "Today was the day when he was going to testify before military prosecutor Kravchenko," Lutsenko added.
Ilya Kiva, adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, said in turn that the country’s law enforcement agencies, the SBU in particular, would ensure the security of all witnesses who had testified in the Yanukovich case. In this connection, Kiva mentioned Ilya Ponomaryov (another former State Duma member) and Maria Maksakova (Voronenkov’s widow). He also said that Maksakova and Ponomaryov would be questioned.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities said they saw the hand of Russia behind the murder. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko openly accused Moscow of killing Voronenkov saying it was "an act of state terrorism on the part of Russia as he had to leave the country for political reasons." "This was done using the Russian special services’ signature style which we have seen many times in various European cities," Poroshenko alleged.
In addition, Poroshenko came up with a theory likening Voronenkov’s murder to the fire at an ammunition depot in the Kharkov region. "I believe it was no coincidence that the murder occurred on the same say as the act of sabotage in Balakleya, Kharkov region," he speculated.
However, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed claims about Russia being involved in Voronenkov’s murder as absurd. "All speculations about a Russian connection are absurd," Peskov said. "We hope that the killer and those behind the murder will be exposed," he added.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in turn, said that the statements made by Poroshenko raised doubts that Kiev would carry out an impartial investigation. "Experts have not yet examined the surrounding area while the head of state already made statements accusing a whole country instead of ensuring an impartial investigation. At first, we were shocked at what had happened but we are even more shocked at Poroshenko’s statements," Zakharova said.
In December 2014, Russia’s Investigative Committee requested that Voronenkov be stripped of his lawmaker immunity over a criminal case on a forcible takeover of a building in downtown Moscow. In April 2015, the Committee handed documents on bringing Voronenkov to justice to the Prosecutor General’s Office.
In October 2016, Voronenkov left Russia. He received Ukrainian citizenship in December 2016.
In February 2017, Russia’s Investigative Committee put Voronenkov on the international wanted list over a major fraud case.
On March 3, 2017, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court sanctioned his arrest in absentia.
On Thursday, Russia’s law enforcement sources told TASS that the criminal case against Voronenkov could be discontinued if his death was officially confirmed and his family gave their consent.