Car of Ukrainian president’s top aide sprayed with gunfire

Ukrainian politics updates

A car carrying Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s top aide was sprayed by gunfire on Wednesday, injuring its driver, in what the country’s authorities called an attempted murder.

More than 10 bullets hit the vehicle near the village of Lisnyky just outside Kyiv, the interior ministry said in a Facebook post that included photos of the bullet-scarred Audi.

Speaking on television, two MPs in Zelensky’s party said the president’s aide, Serhiy Shefir, was not injured in the incident but his driver was being treated for serious wounds.

At a police press conference, Shefir said he thought the incident was an attempt to “intimidate” Zelensky’s government, but he stopped short of identifying possible suspects.

Police said a special operation was under way to search for the perpetrators of what Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, said was being treated as “attempted murder”. 

“Law enforcement officers are doing everything possible to identify the perpetrators and detain them,” she added.

Shefir was a co-founder with the president of Kvartal 95, a comedy and film production company set up before Zelensky turned to politics. The former comedian won a landslide election in 2019 on a pledge to crack down on corruption and end a war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The attack on Wednesday came as Zelensky was in New York where he was expected to address the UN General Assembly. The president said on Tuesday that he would plead for stronger international support to reverse Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and end the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. About 14,000 people have died in the conflict.

In a video address to the nation from New York, Zelensky said he did not know who was behind the attack. But he added: “Passing on a ‘hello’ to me from a forest with gunfire upon the automobile of my friend, this is weakness.

“My response will be strong. This will in no way affect the path which I chose with my team on de-shadowing our economy, on combating criminality and big influential financial [oligarch] groups . . . because the mandate for these changes were given to us by the people of Ukraine.”

Speaking on Ukrainian TV, David Arakhamia, head of Zelensky’s party in parliament, pointed to three possible motives for the attempted hit against Shefir.

He described the first as a “Russian link”. The second, retaliation by criminal groups that opposed a recent crackdown on border smuggling. A third motive he said could be opposition to legislation Zelensky’s party planned to adopt this week, which aims to curb political influence and corruption of domestic oligarchs.

In comments carried by Russia’s Tass news agency, Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, dismissed claims of possible Russian involvement saying: “This, of course, has nothing to do with the real situation”.

Zelensky’s spokesperson said the president’s “de-shadowing and de-oligarchisation of Ukraine will not change, and no insidious actions will affect it”.

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