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12 Sep, 2022 12:30

‘Assassinated’ pro-Russian official rises from the 'dead'

A top administrator in Ukraine’s Kherson region, who's death had been announced, claims it was staged to save his life
‘Assassinated’ pro-Russian official rises from the 'dead'

Vitaly Gura, deputy head of the town of Novaya Kakhovka in Ukraine’s Kherson Region, has revealed that his death was staged by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in order to save him from an assassination attempt by Kiev.

Reports of the pro-Russian official’s murder emerged on August 6, with local authorities saying he was shot by Ukrainian forces near his home in Novaya Kakhovka, and died on his way to hospital.

It appeared to be the latest in a series of attacks on officials and security chiefs in Russian-controlled towns and villages of Ukraine in recent months, which Moscow has blamed on Kiev.

But on Monday, Gura, who was considered dead for more than a month, gave an interview to Russia’s Channel One, saying the FSB covert operation kept him alive.

“In early August, law enforcement agencies approached me and said that an assassination attempt on me was being prepared. They provided recordings proving it,” he said.

Gura, who is currently in hiding, under the protection of the FSB, insists he will return to his job in Novaya Kakhovka. “I want to tell everybody that I’ll be back. I’ll keep working. I’m not afraid,” he said.

In early July, a similar staged assassination was used to get Novaya Kakhovka’s deputy police chief Sergey Tomka out of harm’s way, according to Channel One.

The broadcaster claimed in its report that the operation started in mid-June with a grenade blast at a cafe frequented by members of the town’s administration. The perpetrator of the attack – which did not result in any casualties – was detained and agreed to cooperate with Russian counterintelligence.

The would-be killer had apparently been communicating with Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), via an officer identified as Ilya Bondarchuk, who offered money for killing Novaya Kakhovka officials. The targeted individuals were then put under FSB supervision.

The news of what appeared to be two successful assassinations prompted Bondarchuk to provide his supposed agent with data on a cell of saboteurs preparing attacks in Crimea.

All members of that cell were later detained, while Bondarchuk, who recruited assassins remotely, continues to operate in Ukrainian-controlled territory, Channel One said.

“The SBU leadership decided to take the easy route. They use persons from among the nationalist youths, from the marginal circles. This places Ukraine in the same category as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), which sees terrorist attacks as the only means of achieving its goals,” an unnamed FSB officer told the broadcaster.