Russia probes shooting of former Ukrainian lawmaker in Crimea

By Mark Trevelyan

(Reuters) -Former Ukrainian lawmaker Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian figure whom sources said Moscow had lined up to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv after Russia’s invasion, was shot and wounded in a late-night attack, family and officials said on Friday.

Russia’s top investigative body said it had opened a criminal inquiry into the attempt on his life, which follows the assassinations of several other prominent pro-Moscow figures since the start of the war.

The attack took place in Yalta in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. It was not clear whether the motive was criminal or political.

“Around midnight he was shot twice on the premises of the sanatorium where he lives,” said a post on Tsaryov’s Telegram account, citing the family. “When the ambulance arrived, Oleg was unconscious and had lost a lot of blood.”

A Russian-installed official in southern Ukraine, Vladimir Rogov, said Tsaryov was in intensive care.

Three sources familiar with Russia’s post-invasion plans told Reuters last year that Moscow had been looking to Tsaryov to head a puppet government in Kyiv if it had succeeded in ousting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the first days of the war in February 2022. Tsaryov, who runs hotels in Crimea, said Reuters’ account had “very little to do with reality”.

The 53-year-old was previously a member of the Ukrainian parliament and then speaker of the parliament of “Novorossiya”, an entity formed after Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine broke away in 2014 and began fighting Ukrainian forces.

Tsaryov has been placed under sanctions by Ukraine, the United States and a number of other Western countries.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, was asked on television about the shooting.

“We won’t comment in too much detail yet, that’s too much of an honour for him. But yes, there is such information. I can’t say we’re following his health very closely, but we are following,” he said.

“When there is information that his body temperature has fallen below 36.6, there will definitely be a statement.”

Tsaryov is listed as a “traitor to the motherland” by Myrotvorets (“Peacemaker”), a vast unofficial Ukrainian database of people considered to be enemies of the country. Its website lists personal information on him including an email address, a passport number and an address in Yalta.

Several pro-war Russian figures in the Myrotvorets database have been assassinated since the start of the conflict, including journalist Darya Dugina, war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky and former submarine commander Stanislav Rzhitsky.

Dugina and Tatarsky were blown up by bombs, while Rzhitsky was shot dead on an early morning run.

(Additional reporting by Yuliia Dysa in Kyiv; editing by Giles Elgood)