An assassination attempt on a Chechen man whom Russian authorities accuse of plotting to kill President Vladimir Putin failed in Kyiv on June 1 after the victim’s wife returned gunfire and wounded the would-be assassin.
Adam Osmayev sustained two gunshot wounds to the chest before his wife, Amina Okuyeva, fired back at the alleged shooter, hitting him in the arm, leg, and hip, Kyiv police said.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Interior Ministry identified the alleged shooter as Russian national Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, and said authorities were looking into how he obtained a Ukrainian passport.
Both of the men are said to be in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
In an incident that resembled a spate of gangland-style killings in the 1990s, a man who had posed as Alex Werner, a journalist from the French newspaper Le Monde, arranged to meet Osmayev, a former student at the prestigious Wycliffe College boarding school in Gloucestershire, England.
The suspect and Osmayev, along with Okuyeva, met in a car ostensibly to drive to the French Embassy in the Ukrainian capital to conduct the interview when the assailant pulled out a gun and shot Osmayev, who like his wife was born in Russia's southern republic of Chechnya.
In a video interview after the incident, Okuyeva said the man had told them his editors had sent a "gift" for them that they would "like very much" and presented a box.
"When he opened it, I spotted a Glock pistol," said Okuyeva, who like her husband spent time among pro-Kyiv forces fighting Russia-backed separatists after war broke out in Ukraine's east. "He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam."
But Okuyeva said afterward that she always carries a gun that she was awarded by the Ukrainian authorities for her service "on my belt along with a spare magazine."
She said the gunman "fired a few shots before I fired back at him," adding that her gun jammed after she fired her third shot. Okuyeva said she "pounced on him with my bare hands and he dropped his gun" before she and her husband pushed him out of the car. She then began to treat her husband's wounds, she said.
In a post on Facebook, Okuyeva thanked supporters for their thoughts and prayers.
“By the Grace of the Almighty everything is all right. Adam’s condition is serious but stable,” she added. She later said her husband was "conscious -- understands everything, but could not yet speak because of the ventilator."
She also quoted doctors saying the suspected gunman had been struck by a bullet in the spine, adding, "I'm glad that he got what he deserved from my hand."
Photos published by Ukraine’s RBC news agency showed the alleged shooter and a Ukrainian passport naming him as Oleksandr Dakar.
Artem Shevchenko, communications director for Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, said in a Facebook post that the passport in Dakar's name suggested the suspect had repeatedly crossed the border into Belarus and Russia.
"A Russian trail of blood in this crime is as obvious as the blood stains on Amina’s clothing from the [attacker]," Shevchenko said, adding the incident was an "audacious and insidious enemy attack on patriots of Ukraine."
Anton Herashchenko, a lawmaker and adviser to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, added that police were looking into all possible motives for the assassination attempt but said it appeared to fit with a series of killings and foiled plots between 2014 and 2017 in which authorities found a Russian trace.
But Pavlo Danyukov, deputy chief of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) branch in Kyiv, said on June 2 that there was no confirmed evidence of Russia's involvement in the attack, according to Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL and VOA.
Herashchenko said the gun used by Okuyeva had been given to her by Avakov as a gift for her service in the Kyiv-2 police battalion in eastern Ukraine, where she and Osmayev fought against Russia-backed separatists.
Osmayev, who speaks fluent English with a slight Russian accent, made headlines when he was detained by Ukrainian authorities in Odesa in February 2012 and charged with illegal explosives possession, damaging private property, and forgery. At the request of Russian authorities, he was later charged with plotting to kill Putin.
The European Court of Human Rights recommended that Ukraine not extradite Osmayev to Russia, after which Kyiv decided to suspend the extradition process. In September 2013, a Russian court sentenced the second suspect in the case, Ilya Pyanzin, to 10 years in prison following his extradition by Ukraine to Russia.
Osmayev was released from Ukrainian custody in November 2014, after more than 2 1/2 years in jail in connection with the initial charges.
In February 2015, Osmayev became a commander of the volunteer Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine after the death of its previous commander, Isa Munayev.
In an interview with the Irish Times shortly afterward, Osmayev said he and other Chechens had joined the pro-Kyiv side “to fight for the Chechen cause, which is also the Ukrainian cause and the European cause.”
“If Ukraine is strong and free it can change Russia, and bring freedom to Chechnya in some years,” he added.
With reporting by CurrentTime TV, Interfax, and The Telegraph