A martial arts coach has been named an accomplice in the assassination of a former Russian MP in Kiev.
On March 23rd, former Russian State Duma member Denis Voronenkov was walking through the streets of central Kiev at midday when a gunman opened fire and assassinated him in broad daylight. While the assailant later died of injuries sustained during the shootout with the MP’s bodyguard, it appears a martial arts coach was present as an accomplice.
According to reports from Ukrainian journalists (h/t CrimeRussia), the murderer was accompanied by Yaroslav Levents, a former serviceman of the Ukrainian nationalist Donbas battalion. His name appeared on the wanted list in the Ministry of Internal Affairs shortly following the assassination, which triggered a reaction from many who recognized the name. Levents happened to be a figure known in nationalist circles.
Until a few years ago, Levents earned a living teaching combat hopak, a Cossack martial art in Ukraine. Rooted in the traditional hopak war dance, the techniques of the martial art are a mix of traditional Ukrainian folk fist fighting, folk wrestling, and Cossack sabre fencing. It can be taught as a full-contact sport or a light formula focused on the demonstrative elements. The majority of Levents’ students were young children.
After being arrested in 2012 over his participation in a criminal organization, radical right-wing nationalist group ‘Right Sector’ and Ukrainian human rights activists took up Levents cause and promoted him as a political prisoner under Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president removed from power in 2014. He was released from prison after the Maidan movement and joined the military conflict in Donbas. It is there that he likely got acquainted with Voronenkov’s future murderer, Pavel Parshov.
Voronenkov served in the Russian State Duma (Parliament’s lower house) from 2011-16. However, he fled Russia for Kiev after fraud charges were levied against him by the Russian government. Russia’s Investigations Committee requested the State Duma to strip him of parliamentary immunity to face the charges. Instead, he fled to Ukraine, where he testified before the Prosecutor General’s Office in high treason case of former President Yanukovych. In early March this year, the former State Duma deputy was arrested in absentia and put on the international wanted list on charges of fraud and falsification of documents. A few weeks later, he was assassinated.