World

Former Russian Lawmaker Killed In Kiev

| by Simone Stover

A former Russian lawmaker, who had become a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country as a whole, has been killed -- just three days after saying he believed his life to be in danger. 

Denis Voronenkov and his wife, Maria Maksakova (also a former Russian lawmaker), fled from Russia to the Ukraine in October 2016, according to Radio Free Europe, which conducted an interview with Voronenkov in February. They obtained Ukrainian citizenship in December, according to The Washington Post. 

Before fleeing to the Ukraine, Voronenkov had been a member of Russia's Communist Party and was well known for introducing a bill that banned foreign ownership of Russian media. However, since that time, Voronenkov had become an outspoken citric of the country's politics. During the interview with Radio Free Europe, he compared Russia to "Nazi Germany," and called the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea "illegal."

He and his wife claimed they left Russia because they were under pressure from the Federal Security Service (the modern equivalent of the KGB). Their actions since doing so indicated that they meant to make the Ukraine their new home. After arriving, Voronenkov began to aid efforts to build a case against former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych by providing testimony. In addition, his wife, an opera singer, had planned to tour the country singing Ukrainian folk songs, according to The Washington Post.

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On March 20, The Washington Post conducted an interview with Voronenkov and Maksakova in the Premier Palace Hotel in Kiev, according to the newspaper. Voronenkov claimed that he and his wife were in danger.

“For our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are,” he said. He also claimed he and his wife would not return to Russia until "Putin is gone." 

In the weeks preceding his death, Voronenkov reportedly had ample reason to believe he was in danger. His twitter account and his wife's email account had both been hacked, and both had received threatening messages. This resulted in police assigning Voronenkov a bodyguard. 

On March 23, just three days after he told The Washington Post he was being targeted, Voronenkov was shot outside of the Premier Palace Hotel, the very place where he had given the interview.

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As of March 24, police have yet to identify the assailant who was shot by Voronenkov's bodyguard. According to Kiev Police Chief Andriy Krischenko, the suspect was taken to a hospital where he later died from his injuries, reports CNN.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed that Voronenkov's death was an "act of state terrorism by Russia," according to The Washington Post. In response, Putin called Poroshenko's claim a "fabrication." 

According to The Washington Post, Voronenkov is not the only critic of the Russian government who has been killed. Other such individuals include Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and Boris Nemtsov in 2015. Such deaths as these have led many to theorize that Russia was indeed involved.

However, it is also possible that Voronenkov's death was not instigated by the Russian government. 

According to The Washington Post, records show that Voronenkov voted for the annexation of Crimea (it is important to note that Voronenkov claimed he was not in parliament that day, and that he did not cast the vote himself, according to Radio Free Europe). In addition, his name showed up in the Panama Papers. As a result, it has been theorized that Ukrainian nationalists or business interests could also have been involved.

Sources: The Washington Post, Radio Free Europe, CNN / Photo credit: Vladimir Kud/Flickr

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