Within hours of confirmation that Denis Voronenkov, a former Communist deputy in the Russian parliament, has been gunned down in central Kiev reports are already circulating in the West that hint the Russian authorities are responsible. I anticipate that within hours or days at most that claim will be made explicit.
In reality the Russian authorities were almost certainly not involved in Voronenkov’s murder. Voronenkov – a corrupt and disgraced individual on the run from the Russian police on corruption charges – posed no conceivable danger to the Russian government, which therefore had no conceivable reason to murder him.
Suggestions, which are likely to come soon, that Voronenkov was about to disclose secrets either about Russia’s ‘aggression’ against Ukraine or about Russia’s role in last year’s US election, and that this was the reason for his murder, are absurd.
Voronenkov was by no stretch of the imagination a senior policy maker in Moscow, and his knowledge of any state secrets likely to embarrass Moscow would have been either minimal or non-existent. Besides claims of Russian ‘aggression’ against Ukraine and of Russian interference in the US election have now become so much part of the official orthodoxy in the West that it is difficult to see what Voronenkov could have added to them that would have made any difference.
It is just possible that Voronenkov’s murder was arranged by his former criminal associates back in Russia, or conceivably by supporters of the militia in the Donbass angered by his ‘betrayal’ of their cause.
It is however far more likely that he was gunned down by a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist. The Ukrainian authorities have actually admitted that the man who was captured after shooting Voronenkov down is a Ukrainian national. Whilst it is possible that he might be someone from the Donbass or a supporter of the Donbass’s cause, or that he is a contract killer, it seems far more likely he is a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist.
That in the present overheated anti-Russian atmosphere in Ukraine – with attacks on branches of Russian banks now a daily occurrence and with Yulia Samoilova, Russia’s entrant to the Eurovision Song Contest now banned from entering Ukraine – the fact that no Russian of any prominence is any longer safe in Ukraine should by now be obvious. The fact that Voronenkov was not just Russian but was, however ephemerally and however falsely, also a former Communist, would have rendered him doubly unsafe at a time when anti-Communist feeling amongst Ukrainian ultra-nationalists is also running high.
None of this however gets widely reported in the West, where Ukraine is typically misrepresented as a tolerant democratic country being invaded by an aggressive authoritarian Russia. If only for that reason what are almost certainly the true reasons for Voronenkov’s murder are unlikely to be widely reported in the West.
Blaming Moscow – or ‘Putin’ – for Voronenkov’s murder therefore serves two purposes: it reinforces the Western mischaracterisation of President Putin as a ‘killer’, and it provides an alibi to Ukraine, which the West is supporting and to whose crimes it turns a blind eye.
POSTSCRIPT: Since writing the above reports have appeared confirming that the Ukrainian authorities are – as predicted (see above) – blaming Voronenkov’s murder on Russia, whilst Voronenkov’s assassin is reported to have died from his wounds in hospital, making it impossible for him to deny these claims.
Anyone familiar with Ukrainian realities would find neither fact at all surprising.
Of course it is possible that Voronenkov’s assassin did genuinely die of the wounds he received from the exchange of shots between him and Voronenkov’s bodyguard during the assault. However given the cynicism that now comes with any murder of this sort which happens in Ukraine, his death looks just a mite too convenient for this to be accepted easily.