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Attempt to kill Ukrainian adviser was meant to intimidate government, aide alleges as Kremlin rejects claim of Russian involvement

Attempt to kill Ukrainian adviser was meant to intimidate government, aide alleges as Kremlin rejects claim of Russian involvement
A top Ukrainian government official reportedly targeted by gunmen has said his assailants wanted to send a message to the country's leadership, as conspiracy theorists in Kiev speculate Russia could have been behind the attack.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday after a group of assailants opened fire on his car, injuring his driver, the first assistant to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sergey Shefir, said that the incident was designed to spook senior policymakers. “All I can say is that the assassination attempt was carried out with the aim of intimidating the highest echelon of power,” he said at a briefing organized by the country's Interior Ministry.

“You have to understand that Zelensky is a very strong-willed and decisive person, you cannot intimidate him,” Shefir claimed. The Ukrainian president is currently in New York holding meetings ahead of a speech to the United Nations. He issued a statement shortly after reports of the attack broke, condemning the gunmen and saying that he would fly back to Kiev later today.

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“We were driving when, suddenly, shots rang out,” he explained. “They wounded the driver, who was amazing and carried on driving. We sped up a bit. It was a scary moment. I immediately called the police and the interior minister,” Shefir went on. Shefir is reported to have been unharmed, while the driver has been admitted to hospital.

Despite no evidence of the identity of the assailants being given, the leader of Zelensky's party, David Arakhamia, claimed earlier on Wednesday that one explanation could be that Moscow was behind the attack. “It could have been a warning from smugglers or crime bosses,” he said. “The second version is that maybe there was a Russian link - because recently there has been very active anti-Russian rhetoric and so we can't exclude this possibility.”

At the same time, the Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastirsky said that while it is “too early” to point the finger at potential culprits, “the version of the participation of the special services of foreign states is being considered.” According to him, the purported assassination attempt could have been ordered to “put pressure on the country's senior leadership, in order to destabilize the political situation.”

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Russia, however, has dismissed the allegations out of hand, with Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov saying that “unfortunately, nowadays, whatever happens in Ukraine, none of their current crop of politicians is able to resist pointing to a Russian link.”

“Of course, this has nothing to do with reality, but boils down to an overly amped-up emotional state,” he said.

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