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The Kremlin’s show executions in Kyiv

Denis Voronenkov. Photo: AP
The Kremlin’s show executions in Kyiv
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

The murders of key figures in Kyiv are occurring not in order to remove competitors, for revenge, or by accident. They are designed specifically as show executions.

The murder of the former Russian State Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov cannot be called unexpected. The only thing that can be considered unexpected is perhaps the quality of the work of the Ukrainian intelligence services that allowed for the murder of such an important witness to the crimes of the former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and Russian leaders to take place.

But the fact that Voronenkov would be dealt with could have been foreseen when the former Russian deputy and his wife first appeared in Ukraine’s capital. By and large, there was no other option for the organizers of this murder.

They are well aware that the state they are heading is weakening. That there is no hope for a change of course and for a relatively painless way out of the situation in which Russia finds itself. And this means there will be more and more defectors.

And these defectors need to be shown that they cannot expect any safety if they separate from the pack. The punishing hand of former friends will get them anywhere. And the fear of possible exposure will not stop the organizers of the murders. They have already fouled up too much to be afraid.

This is why the murders of the system’s key figures in Kyiv do not occur in order to eliminate competitors, for revenge, or by accident. They are organized specifically to serve as show executions. A heart attack is the privilege of those who have not gone beyond the bounds — the way people usually die in America.

In Ukraine, people are killed differently. This is why the murder of Denis Voronenkov in its scope and audacity is similar to the murder of another Russian — Pavlo Sheremeta. Each crime was  a signal, but addressed to different audiences of potential defectors who had been closely tied to the system.

Another important symbol may be addressed not to defectors but colleagues. Voronenkov’s family in Moscow was known for its real or imaginary closeness to Vladislav Surkov, the Russian president’s advisor and the “curator” of the Ukrainian project in the president’s administration.

And though Surkov has denied this connection as best he could through his faithful assistants, Voronenkov himself never said a single bad word about his former friend. Furthermore, he insisted that Surkov did not support the annexation of Crimea, and that the decision that sooner or later may result in the trial of war criminals was made by Putin himself.

Against the background of the deteriorating economic situation in the country and the collapse of its foreign policy calculations, the Kremlin operatives cannot avoid sensing the shadow of this process. And quite a few may not like the fact that some are being excused and others are made to bear the entire responsibility.

No, Putin and his associates from the intelligence services want for everyone to be responsible for what has been done. And even better, for everyone, together with all the Russians. Like Hitler, who wanted to respond together with all the Germans. Because only this collective responsibility provides a chance to avoid a fair trial.

All these considerations do not cancel one simple fact. Voronenkov should have been protected as the apple of one’s eye. One might think that the effectiveness of the intelligence services was based on decisions of who can come to Eurovision.

But it is based on the security of those who have decided to break with the Kremlin. It is clear that no one will come to us from the Kremlin now. And another thing is also clear. The murder of Voronenkov did not accidentally coincide with events in the Kharkiv Oblast. (In the town of Balaklia, on March 23, a massive explosion occurred at one of Ukraine’s largest military warehouses, containing over 10,000 tons of munitions and missiles — Ed.) We are not on the verge of a war of sabotage. The war of sabotage has already begun.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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