On March 14, 2017, NewsLanc published my article “Duma Defectors” about two former members of the Russian State Duma: Communist party representative Denis Voronenkov and his wife, the renowned opera singer Maria Maksakova, who moved to Kiev and became Ukrainian citizens shortly thereafter.
On March 23, Voronenkov was shot in the street in the center of Kiev in broad daylight. The former parliamentarian went out with his bodyguard from the hotel and at that time the unknown person opened fire on them. Voronenkov was fatally wounded. During the shootout, the bodyguard also received a gunshot wound. The guard managed to shoot the killer, who died later in the hospital.
The video of the assassination, recorded by a security camera was immediately broadcast by Russian TV and by CNN. It was placed on YouTube, but later the video was replaced with the text: “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on violent or graphic content.”
But some of the videos made by people on the street still can be seen:
American media, presented good coverage of the murder. The New York Times published an article entitled “Hours Before He Died, a Putin Critic Said He Was a Target.”
On the very day of the assassination, March 23, 2017, some American left-leaning political web sites, including Occupy Democrats and the Palmer Report, published articles reporting that Denis Voronenkov was to have been a “star witness” in a treason trial involving former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. They claimed that documents surfaced showing that Manafort had received at least $750,000 in illegal payments from former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, who is about to be tried in absentia for treason in Ukraine. The trial was scheduled to take place in March 2017.
All the imputations of a link between the shooting of Denis Voronenkov and Manafort’s dealings with Victor Yanukovych are purely speculative. Certainly, the coming testimony of Voronekov at the Yanukovich trial wasn’t welcomed by Kremlin.
Also Kremlin by now was extremely annoyed by the statements made by Voronenkov in Ukraine.
The popular website Snob.ru published some quotes of the statements made by Voronenkov prior to his assassination. Here are some:
1. “The decision to annex Crimea was taken by one person, Putin. All the normal people, including his intimate surroundings, were against it.”
2. “The situation in Russia is now like in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Every German knew that Hitler was destroying Jews, but continued to cooperate with him for many years, pretending that nothing was happening. Now the whole Russian state has gone mad in pseudo-patriotic frenzy. Many things in Russia are now identical with Hitler’s Germany.”
3. “One famous writer said: “What unites now Ivan and Mohamed in Russia? The opportunity to steal something.” In such case all the national, religious, and linguistic differences disappear. The Crimea became such a litmus test: Putin united Russia around the idea of stealing something from its neighbor.”
4. “Over the past 20 years Russia has lost the system of education. Propaganda had replaced it. The young people, who have no education, no profession, hear every day about “Ukrainian fascists, enemies,” they get false patriotism, they go to war. First of all they do it because they are not in demand. They cannot find a place for themselves in Russia. And the state shamelessly exploits them, using them as “cannon fodder ‘ “.
5. “The Kremlin became enraged by the events in Ukraine. What if this happens in Moscow? There are also a huge number of dissatisfied people in Russia. This was the main problem. In fear that , God forbid ,something like that will happen here. The Kremlin stated that Ukrainian events were made by the hand of America.”
6. “I’m not a fighter with a ‘bloody regime’. I just call things by their proper names.”
The Kremlin refused to officially comment on the murder of a former Duma deputy.
Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said:
“This is not our topic. We believe that any notorious fabrications that already trace to Russia are absurd, and we hope that the murderer and those who stood behind these actions will be identified.”
However, other Russian politicians, including Voronenkov’s former colleagues in the Duma, were more imaginative in their comments. For example, the head of the Communist faction, Gennady Zyuganov, saw the CIA hand in the death of his fellow party member.
“We must understand that the SBU under the leadership of the CIA could organize this diversion. This provocation has a multi-stage nature, and those who started it do not want to improve relations between Russia and the United States,” Zyuganov told journalists.
In his opinion, the murder can be beneficial to the current authorities of Ukraine.
The head of the Rodina party Alexei Zhuravlev commented: “Ukrainians squeezed out of the fugitive ex-deputy everything they could, and now he just became unneeded and even dangerous for his curators… I hope this sad example will serve as a lesson to those who think about the benefits of betrayal”.
The commentaries of most Russian journalists are very different. It is natural to expect that they would be afraid to accuse their government of the assassination. Nevertheless here is a very typical excerpt from an interview given by a well known Russian journalist, the head of Russian division of the Carnegie Center, Alexei Kolesnikov.
“Of course, today, probably, the major part of our program will be devoted to the murder of Voronenkov in Kiev, a former deputy of the Duma. I wanted to ask not even what you think about it. Just what you can say.”
“And what to keep silent about?”
“It would be good, but you still will not know what happened. Just say what first came to your head when you heard about it. What kind of association?
“You know, in fact, the first completely non-analytical reaction… was close to shock actually. After a shock, a natural question arises: Who did it? Who could be interested in it? The first automatic reaction, the first click is: it was done by the Russian special services for betraying the interests of the motherland, crossing the border to the most terrible enemy now, crossing the border towards Ukraine. To be honest, the other versions do not arise naturally not only on the first click, but even on the second or the third. I’m not saying that this is so, we are talking about perception now. Automatic perception… It seems to me that those who publicly, clearly, and demonstratively killed the former deputy of the State Duma achieved exactly what they wanted.”