Europe

Ukraine conflict: Email claim for Kiev killings

Oleg Kalashnikov and Oles Buzyna Image copyright AFP
Image caption Oleg Kalashnikov and Oles Buzyna were found dead within hours of each other

A Ukrainian nationalist group has said it was behind the deaths of two public figures in Kiev earlier this week.

Oleg Kalashnikov, a former MP, and Oles Buzyna, a writer and former newspaper editor, were gunned down in separate attacks within hours of each other.

A group calling itself the Ukrainian Insurgent Army claimed it carried out the killings in an email to political expert Volodomyr Fesenko.

Both of the victims were known for their strong anti-government views.

Kiev officials immediately questioned the authenticity of the claim.

The email received by Mr Fesenko was addressed to members of the Opposition Bloc, the successors to former President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions. It fell apart after Mr Yanukovych fled the country last year.

In it, the group also said it was to blame for the deaths of several other politicians and officials linked to Mr Yanukovych, some of which were believed to be suicides.

The Insurgent Army, which is named after controversial Ukrainian nationalist partisans who fought during World War Two, said it was giving those it considered guilty of "anti-Ukrainian" activity until Monday to leave the country.

"We are unleashing a ruthless insurgency against the anti-Ukrainian regime of traitors and Moscow's lackeys. From now on, we will only speak to them using the language of weapons, all the way to their elimination," Mr Fesenko quoted the letter as saying.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power in 2014
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ukraine's authorities have promised to investigate this week's murders

Mr Kalashnikov, a former MP from Mr Yanukovych's party, was found dead from gunshot wounds in his apartment block on Wednesday evening.

Hours later two masked assailants gunned down Oles Buzyna in the courtyard of his building.

Olena Bondarenko, a former MP from the Party of Regions, said Ukraine's interior ministry had agreed to provide her with security guards, after she received anonymous threats.

But Markiyan Lubkivsky, a spokesman for the security services, said "the authenticity of the email and the author's intentions" were questionable.

He said the email was sent from an address in Germany and contained grammatical mistakes not typical for a native Ukrainian speaker. This could not be independently verified.

Mr Lubkivsky also claimed that the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) did not exist.

Others disagreed. Anton Shevkhovtsov, a Ukrainian expert in far-right groups, said on Facebook that although he could not say who killed Mr Buzyna and Mr Kalashnikov, a group calling itself the UPA did indeed exist back in January, 2014.

Mr Shekovtsov said it was a "small radical nationalist group" among a number of organisations that had occupied Kiev City Hall. He also claimed he had interviewed its representatives.

Ukrainian officials have promised an open and thorough investigation to track down the two men's killers.

But they also have already voiced a number of accusations, for which, they admit, at the moment they have no proof.

These include the prospect that Moscow was behind the murders, as a provocation. Russian officials deny the charge.

One scenario, in which they seem less interested, is the possibility that Mr Buzyna and Mr Kalashnikov were targeted after their personal information was published on a local website, just days before their shootings.

The site, called "The Peacekeeper" collects information on people who, it says, are "pro-Russian terrorists, separatists, mercenaries, war criminals, and murderers".

However, Anton Geraschenko, a top advisor to the Ukrainian interior ministry, played down the theory.

"I think it's a coincidence," he said, noting that the site gives information on thousands of people.

However, Gerashchenko is also a strong supporter of the site, having encouraged his Facebook followers to send information to it on suspected "terrorists and separatists".