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Ukraine war latest: Russian-linked ex-lawmaker Kyva assassinated outside Moscow

by The Kyiv Independent news desk December 7, 2023 12:25 AM 9 min read
Then lawmaker Illia Kyva, member of the now banned pro-Russian party Opposition Platform - For Life, speaks during a rally in Kyiv on Feb. 3, 2021. (Aleksandr Gusev/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Dec. 6:

  • Russian-linked former lawmaker Kyva assassinated outside Moscow
  • US charges 4 Russian soldiers with war crimes against American in Ukraine
  • Blinken announces 'one of last' defense aid packages unless Congress passes further funding
  • Reuters: EU orders only 60,000 rounds for Ukraine under joint-procurement scheme
  • US company offers to help Ukraine build shelters using 3D printers.

Illia Kyva, a pro-Russian former lawmaker, was found dead in Moscow Oblast on Dec. 6.

According to the Kyiv Independent's source in law enforcement, Kyva's death was a special operation conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Kyva was an infamous political figure in Ukraine who had openly supported Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and was living in hiding in Russia. He left Ukraine shortly before Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

The Kyiv Independent's source in law enforcement said that Kyva was killed with small arms.

"Such a fate will befall other traitors of Ukraine,” Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) spokesperson Andrii Yusov said on air shortly after the news broke.

While the SBU has not officially commented on his death, Russia's Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into the murder.

Kyva was elected to parliament in 2019 on the ticket of the now-banned pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life party, then led by Kremlin-linked oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk.

Kyva was expelled from parliament in March 2022 after he fled to Russia. In Ukraine, Kyva was charged with high treason for colluding with Russia. On Nov. 13, he was sentenced in absentia to 14 years.

Kyva wrote a post on Telegram in April 2022, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin should use a "pre-emptive strike" on Ukraine. Some interpreted the post as an implicit encouragement to utilize nuclear weapons or other forms of mass destruction.

Born in Poltava, Kyva’s name had become associated with a long list of scandals and was a deeply unpopular political figure in Ukraine.

He received just 6,000 votes during his 2019 attempt to run for president, representing the Socialist Party of Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky received over 5.7 million votes.

Months later, however, he managed to gain a seat in parliament by running in the elections as a member of the pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life party.

Besides being an MP in a party controlled by Kremlin-linked Ukrainian oligarch Medvedchuk, Kyva became a TV show host on a Medvedchuk-owned television channel.

When he was present in parliament, he was involved in several fist fights with fellow lawmakers, published a seemingly forged PhD dissertation, and called Putin a "great ruler," among other scandals.

His new persona marked a shift from just five years earlier. In 2014, Kyva was associated with far-right groups and linked to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who belonged to the nationalist-conservative political party People’s Front.

Kyva headed the regional presence of the nationalist organization Right Sector in eastern Ukraine, and became a representative to Dmytro Yarosh, the head of the Right Sector, while Yarosh unsuccessfully ran for president in 2014.

By the time of the launch of the full-scale invasion, Kyva appeared to have made a complete about-face. He wrote an open letter to Putin in April 2022, appealing for Russian citizenship and political asylum.

In his final Telegram post, published on the morning of Dec. 6, Kyva wrote that he hoped Zelensky would commit suicide, "in order to take all the problems with him."

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US charges 4 Russian soldiers with war crimes against American in Ukraine

The U.S. Justice Department has charged four Russian soldiers over the unlawful detainment and torture of a U.S. citizen residing in Ukraine in a historic case, the department's Office of Public Affairs announced on Dec. 6.

Kyiv and the international community have accused Russia and its troops of numerous atrocities and war crimes in Ukraine. This is the first time the U.S. has charged Russian combatants for war crimes against a U.S. citizen.

"As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

"That is why the Justice Department has filed the first-ever charges under the U.S. war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen."

The listed suspects are Suren Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, officers in the Russian military or Russian proxy forces in Donetsk Oblast, and two low-ranking soldiers named Valerii and Nazar, whose last names are unknown.

According to the charges, the Russian soldiers kidnapped the U.S. national from his home in Mylove, Kherson Oblast, in April last year. The settlement had been occupied by Russia since March 2022 but was liberated in Ukraine's fall counteroffensive.

The suspects allegedly held the victim for at least 10 days, stripping him naked, beating him, and performing a mock execution, the Justice Department said.

The U.S. national was also subjected to at least two interrogation sessions, during which he was tortured by the four soldiers and other unnamed persons.

The defendants were charged with three war crimes – unlawful confinement, torture, and inhuman treatment – and one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes.

Although facing life in prison if convicted, Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and multiple reports accused Moscow of carrying out war crimes intentionally.

According to an investigation into deliberate killings of children in Ukraine by the Kyiv Independent's war crimes unit, published in September, Mkrtchyan was a lieutenant colonel in a unit based in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast. Witness accounts provided to the Kyiv Independent point at Mkrtchyan, who at the time oversaw an area in Kherson Oblast, as the one responsible for the murder of 15-year-old Mykhailo Ustianivsky in April 2022.

Mkrtchyan was allegedly detained by Russian occupying forces for sexual violence.

According to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin, Ukraine has collected evidence of 109,000 Russian war crimes as of Nov. 18.

Blinken announces 'one of last' defense aid packages unless Congress passes further funding

The U.S. announced on Dec. 6 a $175 million defense aid package for Ukraine from previously directed drawdowns, in what Secretary of State Antony Blinken said would be "one of the last" military aid packages to Ukraine if Congress fails to pass additional funding.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass a Ukraine aid bill on Dec. 6, saying that failing to support the country would be a "gift" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Unless Congress acts to pass the president’s national security supplemental funding request, this will be one of the last security assistance packages we can provide to Ukraine," Blinken said in a statement.

This latest package includes air defense munition, HIMARS munition, artillery shells, air-to-surface High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM), anti-tank missiles,  and small arms ammunition.

It also contains demolitions for clearing obstacles, equipment for the protection of infrastructure, spare parts, ancillary equipment, services, training, and transportation.

"Until Russia ends this war by stopping its brutal attacks and withdrawing its forces from Ukraine, it is critical for the United States to continue to lead the coalition we have built of more than 50 countries standing strongly with Ukraine," Blinken said.

"Helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression and secure its future advances our national security interests and contributes to global stability around the world, and we need Congress to act immediately."

Congress has already allocated $111 billion to assist Ukraine since the start of the full-scale war, including $67 billion in military procurement funding, $27 billion for economic and civil assistance, and $10 billion for humanitarian aid.

U.S. Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned that all of those amounts, except for around 3% in defense funding, had been depleted by mid-November.

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Reuters: EU orders only 60,000 rounds for Ukraine under joint-procurement scheme

EU members have so far placed orders for only 60,000 artillery shells under a joint procurement scheme, which is a key component of the plan to supply Ukraine with one million shells by spring, Reuters reported on Dec. 6, citing undisclosed sources.

European and Ukrainian officials acknowledged in November that the EU is behind schedule with its shell deliveries, just as Russia is ramping up defense production and securing ammunition from its partners.

One method of hitting the one-million mark lies in jointly procuring additional munition through contracts negotiated by the bloc's European Defense Agency (EDA).

The EDA said in September that seven countries had ordered ammunition via this scheme. Lithuania, Denmark, and Luxembourg have said they were among this group.

Sources told Reuters that only 60,000 shells had been ordered under this scheme, although the EDA did not confirm the figure.

Another way to provide munitions to Ukraine was by drawing on existing stocks. EU countries delivered some 300,000 shells and missiles from their arsenals, the bloc's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, announced in mid-November.

More munitions were ordered in contracts under the leadership of a specific lead nation, like Germany.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Nov. 30 that 480,000 artillery shells had "been either delivered (to Ukraine) or are in the pipeline," which is less than half of the promised amount.

According to Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the delays are connected to the poor state of the European defense industry.

Micael Johansson, the vice-chairman of the ASD defense lobby group, said that Europe is facing a real challenge to "restart production of ammunition and weapons systems that we haven't done for a very long time."

In turn, defense industry representatives called on the governments for more firm orders rather than just targets.

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US company offers to help Ukraine build shelters using 3D printers

A Ukrainian delegation in the U.S. signed a memorandum with the company Diamond Age on cooperation in building shelters using 3D printers, the Strategic Industries Ministry announced on Dec. 6.

Bomb shelters play a crucial role in protecting the Ukrainian population from daily Russian attacks. After a summer audit uncovered that around one-third of Ukraine's shelters are not usable, President Volodymyr Zelensky tasked the authorities to put them in proper order.

The delegation, which included Strategic Industries Deputy Minister Hanna Hvozdiar and Ukrainian Defense Industry (Ukroboronprom) director Herman Smetanin, visited the U.S. state of Arizona on Dec. 4.

Their itinerary included a meeting with Jack Oslan and Cole Young, the CEO and the CFO of the Diamond Age construction company, focusing on robotics solutions and 3D printing.

The two parties also discussed the possibility of using 3D technology for the construction of front-line fortifications, the ministry said.

"Jack Oslan announced the company's readiness to cooperate with Ukraine and its intention to enter the Ukrainian market," the ministry's statement read.

The delegation also met representatives of the University of Arizona, visited a factory of the arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman, and held a round table with companies involved or interested in helping Ukraine.

The goal of the Ukrainian mission was to discuss the development of Ukraine's defense production capabilities and to seek the support of U.S. scientists in humanitarian demining.

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