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Kyiv Alleges Journalist's Slaying Not Only Ordered, But Timed To The Minute

  • Daisy Sindelar

Oles Buzyna was killed on April 16

Oles Buzyna was killed on April 16

At 1:55 p.m. Moscow time on April 16, the Ukrainian National News agency posted a bulletin announcing that journalist Oles Buzyna had been shot dead.

At 2:05, Ukrainian presidential adviser Anton Herashchenko confirmed the slaying on Facebook. And by 2:17, Russian President Vladimir Putin was already using Buzyna's killing to attack Ukraine's "democratic" values during his annual call-in show with the Russian public.

"This isn't the first political killing we've seen. We've had an entire series of these kinds of killings in Ukraine," Putin said smoothly, responding to a moderator who interrupted the live television broadcast to announce Buzyna's slaying. In all, just 23 minutes had passed from the first bulletin on Buzyna's death in Kyiv to Putin's cursory condemnation in Moscow.

It's a turnaround some Ukrainian officials found remarkably rapid for a president who earlier this year took more than four days to comment publicly on the far more resonant assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov just outside the Kremlin walls.

Kyiv officials now allege that Buzyna's killing was not only ordered at Russia's behest, but also purposefully timed to serve as seemingly impromptu anti-Ukrainian fodder for Putin's Q & A.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described Buzyna's daytime slaying by two masked men on a central Kyiv street as a "deliberate provocation."

Herashchenko spoke more pointedly, describing Buzyna as a "sacrificial victim" and noting that the call-in show's announcement about the journalist's death "was so carefully worded I got the impression they could have known about the tragedy in advance."

Later Herashchenko spoke even more bluntly, accusing Russia's special forces of carrying out Buzyna's killing "to create an atmosphere of terror in Kyiv."

He added that the nearly simultaneous death of Oleh Kalashnikov -- a crony of ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych -- was an attempt to show that "opposition politicians are also supposedly killed in Ukraine, just as Nemtsov was killed in Russia."

'Absurd' Allegations

Konstantin Dolgov, the human rights representative of Russia's Foreign Ministry, has hotly rejected any suggestion its own special forces were involved, calling Kyiv's accusations "absurd" and "blasphemous."

To be certain, Ukrainian officials have done little to resolve a recent string of suspicious deaths that have targeted, almost exclusively, allies of ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych and other pro-Russian figures.

(WATCH: Ukraine Killings Spark Claim And Counter Claim)

Kalashnikov is the ninth member of Yanukovych's Party of Regions to die violently in the past three months. The majority of the deaths have been ruled suicides and the cases quietly closed.

The rash of unexplained deaths has prompted critics, including Russia, to accuse Poroshenko's government of tacitly approving the elimination of Yanukovych's clan. Pro-Kremlin observers have also accused the West of turning a blind eye to Ukraine's judicial negligence.

Officials from the OSCE and the European Union have urged an immediate investigation into the killings of Buzyna and Kalashnikov. Arsen Avakov, Ukraine's interior minister, says the country's "best criminal search experts" have been put on the case.

Still, some incidents are likely to fuel Ukrainian theories that Buzyna -- the former head of Segodnya newspaper and a vocal supporter of Russia's policy towards Ukraine -- had been fingered for a false-flag killing aimed at throwing suspicion on Kyiv officials.

Pravda Ukraine, a marginal online publication, ran an article prematurely announcing Buzyna's killing on March 10 -- more than a month before the fact.

Russia's pro-Kremlin LifeNews website wrote on April 16 that Oleksandr Kofman, the "interior minister" of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, had warned Buzyna -- a Donetsk native -- to flee the Ukrainian capital shortly before his death. And Ukraine's pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party today announced it had received a letter from an unknown nationalist group, the "Ukrainian Rebel Army," claiming responsibility for the recent killings.