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On 15 April, Oleh Kalashnikov, a former MP and member of the Party of Regions headed by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, was shot dead as he entered his premises in Kiev. On 16 April, Oles Buzina, a Ukrainian journalist known for his vitriolic pro-Russian stances, was shot dead close to his home in Kiev.

The day after Buzina’s murder, Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko received an e-mail message from a group calling itself "Ukrainian Insurgent Army" and claiming responsibility for the murders of several people, including Kalashnikov and Buzina. In particular, the e-mail message said:"We are commencing a ruthless insurgent struggle against the anti-Ukrainian regime of traitors and Moscow’s cads, and from now on, we shall talk to them only in the language of arms until their complete destruction".

 

The name of the group, "Ukrainian Insurgent Army" (also known by its Ukrainian acronym UPA), refers to the name of a historical Ukrainian nationalist movement founded by the radical factions of the Organisation Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and engaged in the struggle against the Soviet rule from 1943 until 1954. The Soviet politicians and historians demonised both the OUN and UPA, and the Russian media still applies the title "banderivtsy" derived from the name of Stepan Bandera, the leader of one of the radical factions of the OUN, to all Ukrainian modern nationalists and even to moderates who support the independence of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that the two murders had been "a deliberate provocation" aimed at "destabilising the internal political situation in Ukraine and discrediting the political choice of the Ukrainian people". Poroshenko also said that he would personally oversee the investigations into the two murders, while Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated that the best specialists of the General Procurator’s Office and police would be dealing with these crimes.

Corruption, Russian provocation

The murders of Kalashnikov and Buzina gave rise to a number of theories that would presumably explain the murders and agendas behind them. With regard to Kalashnikov, representatives of the police said that the "economic factors" could not be ruled out. Indeed, given the massive corruption of Yanukovych’s regime, former members of the Party of Regions may be still engaged in carving up the fraudulent gains, hence Kalashnikov could have be murdered by his former partners.

However, given the statement of the alleged UPA, the most popular theory about the two murders has been that the Russian security services might have been involved. Ukrainian MP and adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko said that he would not rule out that Buzina’s murder "had been organised by the Russian security services in order to create the atmosphere of terror in Kiev, to carry on the hysteria in the Russian media". Ukrainian political commentator Viktor Ukolov claimed that "an attempt to discredit Ukraine in the eyes of the Russians and the West could be the motif behind the two murders"; that would "create a ground for the Russian propaganda accusing Ukraine of fascism".

The Russian authorities naturally instrumentalised Buzina’s murder for their own needs. Several minutes after Buzina’s death was reported, Russian president Vladimir Putin, during the televised call-in show, commented that "it was not the first political assassination in Ukraine. Ukraine is dealing with a whole series of such murders". He then referred to the allegedly successful investigation of the murder of a Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, and added: "In Ukraine, which aspires to be a democratic country and seeks membership in a democratic Europe [no thorough investigations of these crimes] happen".