Serguiï Chefir, first adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, escaped an automatic assassination attempt on Wednesday 22 September. An attack linked, according to the authorities, to the fight against the interests of powerful oligarchs.
At around 10 a.m. (local time, 9 a.m. in Paris) on Wednesday, unknown persons opened fire on Mr. Chefir’s car, near the village of Lisnyky, in the region of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. In total, “Eighteen shots were fired at the car with an automatic weapon”, reported the head of the Kiev regional prosecutor’s office, Oleksiï Khomenko, quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine agency. While Chefir escaped the attack unscathed, his driver was injured and hospitalized, but his life is not in danger.
Mr. Chefir, who appeared at a press conference at the Interior Ministry, denounced an attempt to“Intimidate” President. “Volodymyr Zelensky is a person with strong will and he is not intimidated. He chose the right path and he will follow it ”, he added. Reacting to the attack on New York, where he is visiting, Mr. Zelensky promised a “Strong response” and to continue his fight “Against crime and against influential financial groups”, a way of alluding to his promise to fight against the influence of the oligarchs.
“Three main hypotheses” are being investigated, said police chief Igor Klymenko, listing the trail of an attack linked to “Official functions” of Mr. Chefir, that of an attempt to “Put pressure on the leaders” Ukrainians and that of a “Attempt to destabilize” from Ukraine. In the latter case, a “Participation of foreign special services” attack is a possibility, according to him – a reference undoubtedly to Russia, geopolitical adversary of Ukraine.
An adviser to the presidency, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, told Interfax-Ukraine agency that he “Clearly associated” the assassination attempt at a “Aggressive and bellicose campaign against the policy of the Head of State”. He referred to Mr. Zelensky’s efforts to “Reduce the influence of shadow oligarchs” and those aiming “The destruction of the politico-financial groups which work for our foreign adversaries”.
Mr Zelensky this year announced a campaign to fight against certain oligarchs, extremely wealthy and unscrupulous businessmen accused of exploiting the economy of this former Soviet republic and of buying the voices of the media and the political class. .
Prior to assuming the presidency of this one of the poorest countries in Europe in 2019, Mr. Zelensky was a famous actor playing the role of Ukrainian president in a television series, and Mr. Chefir was his close associate in his production company. He was elected promising change and a merciless fight against the corruption that plagues Ukraine. So far, its results have been limited.
Several assassination attempts, successful or not, have targeted politicians and journalists in recent years in Ukraine, a country at war since 2014 with pro-Russian separatists and engaged in a serious crisis with Moscow. Access to firearms is facilitated by this conflict in the east. Among the resounding attacks were the murders of former Russian deputy Denis Voronenkov, shot dead in the streets in broad daylight in 2017, and that of prominent investigative journalist Pavel Cheremet the previous year, killed in the explosion of his car in Kiev.