You don’t get away with saying things like the country “has gone crazy” and “the system has lost its mind” about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Nor is it advisable to compare Russia with Nazi Germany, where “everyone knew he was killing the Jews but continued cooperating with him for many years, acting as if nothing was happening.”
Particularly if you are a turncoat politician.
Denis Voronenkov (pictured), a former Communist Party member of the Russian Duma, paid the price for those words on 23 March – two shots to the head as he left a swanky Kiev hotel. Voronenkov, who had for a while flourished under the Putin regime, fled Russia last October to Ukraine, where he was granted citizenship.
Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, is convinced Russian agents murdered Voronenkov. He called his death “an act of state terrorism on the part of Russia”.
Voronenkov was a key witness in Ukraine’s inquiry into former President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian military involvement in the country. Yanukovych sent a letter to Putin asking him to send Russian troops to Ukraine to help him retain power. At a meeting of the UN Security Council Vitaliy Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative, waved a copy of this letter as evidence that Russia did not arbitrarily intervene in Ukraine but was simply responding to a request. On 20 February, Churkin mysteriously dropped dead in New York at the age of 64, thus avoiding being called as a witness. Details of his autopsy have not been released, adding to the murk.
Kiev – just 500 miles from Moscow – has become a home for oppositionists to Putin. More assassinations seem almost inevitable.