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“We are poking a sore spot of the Kremlin”: A Putin critic’s words before he was murdered in Kyiv

Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko
Another body.
By Hanna Kozlowska
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Another Russian critic of Vladimir Putin has ended up dead, murdered by a gunman in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 23. Denis Voronenkov, a former deputy of the Russian parliament, had fled his country last year with his wife, Maria Maksakova, also an MP.

Voronenkov had been testifying in a case against former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. In recent weeks, he gave a series of interviews to foreign and local media, in which he did not shy away from criticizing the Kremlin, even comparing Russia’s political and criminal justice system to Nazi Germany in an interview with the Daily Beast. Following similar remarks in a February interview with a Ukrainian website, he was charged with fraud back in Russia.

In his conversations with journalists, he indicated that he feared for his life. Voronenkov had received Ukrainian citizenship despite criticisms that he had been very much part of the Putin establishment and voted for the Russian annexation of Crimea. Now, he said, the couple had been labeled “traitors” in Russia.

It’s unclear who the gunman was and why Voronenkov was killed, but suspicion is likely to fall upon the Kremlin. There’s a long list of people suspected to have been murdered on orders from Putin’s government.

Here are several of Voronenkov’s prophetic quotes from recent interviews:

  • The Washington Post, March 21: “For our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are,” he said, referring to keeping the location of his new home a secret. “It’s a totally amoral system and in its anger it may go to extreme measures. There’s been a demonization of us. It’s hard to say what will happen.” At the end of the interview, he said “It’s hard to imagine we will be forgiven.”
  • RFE/RL, Feb. 16: “We need to be careful,” he said. “We are poking a sore spot of the Kremlin with our statements.”
  • The Ukrainian Gordon news agency, February (explanations in parentheses by the Kyiv Post): “On Russian television channels everyone is shouting: Voronenkov should be exchanged for Roman Sushchenko (a Ukrainian political prisoner held in Russia) and, if this fails, he should be killed like (Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan) Bandera,” he said. “People in Russia have gone crazy, they’re not sane.”

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