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Ex-Russian lawmaker who turned on Putin shot dead

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 23/03/2017
Voronenkov attends session at State Duma, lower house of parliament, in Moscow © REUTERS/Dmitry Dukhanin/Kommersant Photo Voronenkov attends session at State Duma, lower house of parliament, in Moscow

(Bloomberg) -- A former Russian lawmaker who fled Moscow for Ukraine and likened life under President Vladimir Putin to Nazi Germany was shot dead in Kiev.

Denis Voronenkov, 45, was killed Thursday at 11:40 a.m. near the Premier Palace hotel in the center of Ukraine’s capital, local police said. His bodyguard, who was injured in the shooting, wounded the assailant and both are under guard in the hospital, police said. Ukraine blamed the killing on Russia, linking it to testimony by Voronenkov against Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-backed Ukrainian leader who was ousted three years ago in street protests.

The assassination carries the “obvious signature of Russian special services,”  President Petro Poroshenko, said via Facebook. “Voronenkov was a key witness of Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Already at their worst since the Soviet Union collapsed, the murder further shatters ties between the two countries. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea region of Crimea in 2014 and the government in Kiev blames Putin for instigating the three-year insurgency on the nations’ shared border. Yanukovych, who now lives in Russia, stands accused of treason for inviting Russian troops into Ukraine, allegations he denies.

Leaving Russia

Voronenkov left for Ukraine in 2016 after his failure to win re-election annulled his parliamentary immunity and exposed him to criminal charges over a building dispute. He’d campaigned for the Communist Party against foreign ownership of local media and Russian companies’ offshore structures. He was joined in Kiev by his wife, an opera singer and ex-legislator for Putin’s party. They received Ukrainian citizenship last month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed as absurd suggestions that Russia was involved in the killing, the Interfax news service reported. He said the killing showed Ukraine was unable to ensure Voronenkov’s safety.

Ex-Russian opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev said on Facebook that Voronenkov had been on his way to meet him when he was shot. “Voronenkov isn’t a crook -- he’s an investigator of mortal danger to Russia’s security services,” he said.

The murder is the latest in a string of fatal attacks in Kiev. Most recently, a Belarusian journalist who made his career in Russia was assassinated in a car bomb last summer. The perpetrators remain at large.

Poroshenko also accused Russia of involvement in a fire Thursday at a Ukrainian arms depot that required the evacuation of almost 20,000 residents.

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