Ukraine’s chief prosecutor has claimed that an alleged crime lord with links to Russian security services is responsible for the killing of renegade Russian MP Denis Voronenkov in Kiev earlier this year.
That assassination in broad daylight turned a Ukrainian PR coup into disaster. Kiev had great hopes of using the defection of the former FSB investigator - who followed the Kremlin line while in parliament before turning Kremlin critic in Ukraine - in the fight against their eastern neighbour.
Mr Voronenkov was on the way to a meeting to discuss a new “anti-corruption” initiative with fellow exile and Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov when he was gunned down on 23 March.
Chief prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko said Kiev now understands the chronology, organisers, executors, and abettors of the crime. At least five men were involved, he said, including Pavlo Parshov, the hooded assassin who died at the scene, and two others who are now on the run. According to Mr Lutsenko, the mastermind of the murder was Vladimir Tyurin, an alleged Russian crime lord.
Mr Tyurin was the ex-partner of Mr Voronenkov’s wife, Maria Maksakova, the glamorous opera singer and former Duma Deputy who fled Russia with her husband last October. Mr Tyurin and Ms Makaskova have two children together.
Vladimir Tyurin’s name is infamous and frequently connected to the Russian criminal underworld. Spanish prosecutors claim he is the head of the influential Bransk organised crime ring from Siberia, and that he is pre-eminent mafia authority in Russia and Europe. Russia has so far refused extradition requests, on account of Mr Tyurin’s Russian citizenship, which is contested by Spain.
In Prosecutor Lutsenko’s version, Mr. Tyurin had been motivated by “a combination of personal revenge, and the interests of the Security Service and top Kremlin officials, who wanted to silence a valuable witness for good.” Mr Tyurin’s alleged standing as a criminal authority was proof of his “complicity” with Russian security services, Mr Lutsenko added.
Ilya Ponomaryov told The Independent that both he and Ms Maksakova were satisfied the correct conclusions had been made by Ukrainian prosecutors.
He said that Mr Voronenkov died “fighting for justice.” The defector had not been naive: “I told him was that he should understand he’d come to a war-zone. His reply was that he was an officer, he understood all that, but wanted to be useful.”
Speaking with The Independent, Mr Tyurin’s lawyer dismissed the allegations as “politically-motivated nonsense.” His client had no axe to grind, and didn’t even know who Mr Voronenkov was until very recently, he claimed.
“Tyurin was always happy for Masha. He gave her everything she wanted fame, love, money, kids, cars, jewellery, but he couldn’t give her the one thing that she wanted: publicity,” Mr Belyak said. “Tyurin isn’t a public man, because of what he was up to, what he is up to, you understand.”
Ukraine has stated that Mr Voronenkov had been providing evidence to prosecutors investigating crimes committed during the protests that revolution and military operations in Crimea and the eastern Ukraine.
Mr Voronenkov’s dissident identity does not, however, sit entirely right with history. A former FSB colonel, he had an exemplary hardline voting record and was a co-sponsor of draconian media legislation in 2015. Russian investigators filed fraud charges against him in connection with his business activities after his move to Ukraine.
Mr Tyurin’s lawyer, Mr Belyak suggested that Mr Voronenkov was killed by Ukrainian nationalists. “The motives were obvious: He was Russian, FSB, Communist, and he voted for the annexation of Crimea,” he said.
At least two of the men named as allegedly being involved in the murder have connections with far right, pro-Ukrainian groups. Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko has argued the men were planted by Russian security services.
Mr Lutsenko said that Ukraine would send an extradition request to Russia. Given previous refusals, this seems an unlikely prospect.
Russia has consistently denied any involvement in Mr Voronenkov’s killing.
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