Former Russian Lawmaker Shot Dead in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -

A former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov was shot and killed in Kiev Thursday in what Ukrainian police described as a contract hit probably ordered by Russia.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko blamed the Kremlin for Voronenkov’s killing, saying Russia wanted to punish him for his testimony to Ukrainian investigators.

Voronenkov, 45, a former member of the Communist faction in the lower house of Russian parliament, had moved to Ukraine last fall and had been granted Ukrainian citizenship. He testified to Ukrainian investigators as part of their probe into the activities of the nation’s former Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by massive protests in February 2014.

Ukrainian police said Voronenkov was shot dead by an unidentified gunman near the entrance to an upscale hotel in the Ukrainian capital.

The assailant also wounded Voronenkov’s bodyguard, who fired back and wounded the gunman. Police said they were both hospitalized.

Voronenkov left Russia with his wife, who was also a lawmaker. He said he had to leave Russia because of persecution by Russian security agencies and had renounced Russian citizenship.

After Voronenkov’s move to Ukraine, Russian investigators have filed fraud charges against Voronenkov in connection with his business activities.

Members of the Russian parliament were quick to reject Ukrainian allegations that Voronenkov could have been killed over any betrayal of Russia.

Nikolai Kovalyov, the former Russian security chief who is a lawmaker, told Russian state media that the killing could have been rooted in a business dispute.

Russia’s Kremlin said on Thursday that allegations from Ukrainian authorities that Moscow was behind the murder of a fugitive Russian MP in Kiev were absurd, Russian news agencies reported.

“We believe that all the falsehoods that can already be heard about much-hyped Russian involvement are absurd,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying.