A hail of bullets ripped through a car transporting Serhiy Shefir, a top aide of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in what senior officials have called an attempt to intimidate the country's leadership as it tries to tackle corruption.
Shefir was unharmed when more than 10 bullets tore into his car in the attack at around 10 a.m. local time on September 22 in the village of Lisnykiy just outside of Kyiv.
Local media said almost double that number of bullet holes were visible on the driver's side of the car. Police said the driver was wounded but gave no further details. There were no other passengers in the car, which did not have armor plating.
Shefir leads a group of advisers to Zelenskiy, who was elected in 2019 in part on a platform of tackling the country's notorious deep-seated corruption, including the undue influence of powerful businessmen known as oligarchs, and cleaning up the court system.
Police said they were investigating the case as attempted murder and mentioned three possible motives. They include an attempt to pressure the country's leadership, create political destabilization, or an attack engineered by a foreign intelligence service.
"The aim of this crime was not to simply intimidate, but to assassinate the Ukrainian president's top aide," Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy told journalists in Kyiv.
"I would like to stress that the presidential team of Ukraine cannot be intimidated. All of the initiated reforms, including the fight against organized crime, will be continued," he added.
On July 1, Zelenskiy's Servant of the People party approved in the first reading a draft bill -- known as "the oligarch law" -- that seeks to introduce a legal definition for a tycoon and impose limitations, including blocking them from financing political parties.
Parliament is this week due to debate the law directed at limiting the influence of oligarchs.
The United States has long called on Ukraine to tackle the handful of tycoons who wield enormous political influence from behind the scenes to the detriment of the country and its citizens.
Zelenskiy, who is currently in the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, vowed a "strong response" to the shooting, which occurred as the car passed by a wooded area.
"It is weakness to say 'hello' to me by shooting at my friend's car from a forest. But the response will be strong," Zelenskiy said in a video statement from New York, adding that he would be doubling down on his planned reforms rather than backing off.
Shefir, who called the attack nothing more than an attempt at "intimidation," and Zelenskiy have worked together for years.
In 2003 he co-founded a production company called Kvartal 95 with his brother Boris and Zelenskiy, who was then a comedic actor .
Shefir produced and wrote The Servant Of The People, a show in which Zelenskiy portrayed a schoolteacher who becomes president and which eventually launched his political career.
Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook that police had opened an investigation into attempted murder.
"The intentions of the criminals were quite serious," National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said.