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 DENIS VORONENKOV WAS TO MEET HIS MOSCOW ACQUAINTANCE, WHO LEFT FOR RUSSIA RIGHT AFTER ASSASSINATION

Two major questions arise in connection with investigation of the murder of Voronenkov: how was he found by his killers? How was his safety secured?

According to sources of Censor.NET, Voronenkov was heading to Premier Palace hotel to meet Ilya Ponomarev. But in the morning, at 11:30, before seeing Ponomarev, Voronenkov arranged for another meeting with another person. It was his Moscow driver, Russian citizen Vladislav Tikhonkin. Voronenkov wanted to discuss with him the details of his car delivery from Moscow to Kyiv. Tikhonkin brought the car in the night of March 23.

According to the Ukrainian intelligence reports, the driver was detained by the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) officers when he was crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border. The FSB agents exerted severe moral coercion against him in order to obtain information about Voronenkov. It is possible that Tikhonkin was recruited or his movement could have been tracked and conversations wiretapped by covert means. Voronenkov bought his driver a ticket to Moscow for March 23, 2017 but decided to meet him personally before his departure. Voronenkov was the only one who knew of this meeting. Right after Voronenkov's assassination, Vladislav Tikhonkin did not disclose himself nor gave testimony to Ukrainian law enforcement agencies. The driver left Ukraine in accordance with his ticket at around 2 p.m. The investigation found out that Voronenkov was going to meet Tikhonkin when the driver was already outside Ukraine.

Voronenkov lead no solitary life in Kyiv.

Denys Voronenkov attended various public assemblies, gave interviews to journalists on regular basis. However, he was killed when his driver arrived from Moscow, which made the investigators extremely suspicious. The driver was likely acting deliberately or unwittingly under the control of Russian secret services.

At the same time, an interior investigation should be conducted of who and how was securing or supposed to secure safety of former State Duma member in order to draw conclusions out of this tragedy. The war goes on, and Russia continues terrorist attacks on our land. Despite being a witness, Voronenko was free to move independently in Kyiv. His security was provided by four officers of Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Department (HUR). When he was killed, Voronenkov was accompanied by only one officer. The officer’s behavior makes it obvious that he was not a bodyguard, although with high level of marksmanship. So, there is the bill “On securing safety for persons under criminal investigation.” There is a procedure stipulated by laws and agency instructions. There is liability for not obliging these legal norms. Under the law, Voronenkov was an important witness in a high-profile criminal case against Yanukovych, so the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has to make relevant instructions that must have been followed by people who secured the persons’ safety. HUR is not falling under this category, but it has the right under the law “On investigative agencies” to ensure security of its forces. Prior to public announcement of Voronenkov’s participation in the trial, when he was still in shadow, it was probably sufficient. But after public announcements made by prosecutor’s office officials, they should have offered security of a totally new level, with involvement of SBU of Interior Ministry, who are obliged by the law to ensure safety to persons involved in a criminal investigation.

Similarly, HUR should have also analyzed and reviewed its mode of ensuring safety to Voronenkov, which mode in this case did not allow protecting him from a sudden attack and had to take a real situation into account.

Voronenkov's assassination is the first blatant terrorist attack in Kyiv obviously orchestrated by the Russian secret services. We may see more attacks soon. It is necessary to investigate and draw conclusions out of it in order to prevent new casualties in this secret war.

From what we know now, the major problem was lack of single command of the operation. I believe that participation of several different units from different agencies in working with Voronenkov prevented one single leader from undertaking full responsibility for his security, despite the fact that all of them realized the level of threat and paid much personal attention.

The Russian secret agents failed to find out where Voronenkov lived as contract killings and terrorist attacks are usually committed at the places of residence, where the chance to find a victim is much higher. But the enemy managed to find a way for the hitman to track down the former deputy. Voronenkov told Tikhonkin the place and time of the meeting several hours before the assassination. The Russian agents had no other exact information. The meeting with Ponomarev was scheduled after the one with Tikhonkin, but the assassin was waiting for Voronenkov and was ready to act, which meant that the information was obtained not from Ponomarev or the gadgets he used for communication, but from Tikhonkin. The murder was plotted in haste so they did not rigged explosives or nested a sniper — Voronenkov had to be identified in a crowd at the street. Therefore, there was only one extremely risky way to eliminate him — a close distance assassination. That's why the killer called the victim — to make sure it was Voronenkov.

HUR officers were working with the information source and ensuring his security. One of them stayed at Voronenkov’s home on that morning to protect Denys’s wife, another one went with him. Despite being good fighters, those who accompanied Voronenkov were, unfortunately, not professional bodyguards, and they were not tasked to watch out for an attack. The car did not enter the hotel’s parking and stopped on the street, Voronenkov walked together with a HUR officer. They didn’t expect the attack; it can be seen on the video… Investigation is needed to find out how that happened. But the leadership of the country should draw serious conclusions. If we’re interested in having more high-ranking witnesses and sources in Russia, we must secure these people from future terrorist attacks.

Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET

 
 
 
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