23rd March has been a somewhat eventful day for Kyiv.
The assassination of Denis Voronenkov is perhaps not a surprise.
A former Russian Duma parliamentarian fleeing Russia after corruption allegations, who then obtains Ukrainian citizenship and openly cooperates with the Ukrainian authorities giving evidence regarding former President Yanukovych and his appeals for Russian military intervention – notwithstanding outspoken remarks regarding Crimea – is sure to draw Kremlin ire.
That the assassin was slain is no comfort.
Presumably those such as Ilya Ponomarev will now receive increased security.
Ukrainian authorities have unsurprisingly swiftly pointed the finger at the Kremlin for this wetwork operation in Kyiv – and for sure The Kremlin has a well documented history, both home and abroad, of carrying out wet work against those it feels betrays it.
How swiftly any connection between the assassin and The Kremlin can or will be made public remains to be seen.
Despite the probability that this assassination is Kremlin wet work, and despite the very swift finger pointing by Ukraine at Moscow, there are obviously other possibilities that must be investigated.
It may well be that he was slain on a paid contract by those that are still in the Yanukovych orbit, and that it was done without the direct or tacit approval of The Kremlin. It may also be an assassination for other business related reasons. While both seem far less likely than a Kremlin approved wetwork operation, they are clearly possibilities that must be considered, however unlikely, and ruled out (or in).
President Poroshenko has stated that is was “no coincidence” that the assassination occurred upon the same day that a significant arms depot, Balakleya, Kharkiv) was blown up. Clearly the inference being that the arms dump explosion was an act of sabotage by Russia.
It has to be noted however that ammo dumps have blown up before with the initial allegation from Kyiv blaming Russia only for the cause to be identified as negligence of ammo dump employees – Svatove in 2015 being one example.
That said this particular ammo storage facility, without going into too much detail, was a major artillery dump that will undoubtedly have a real effect upon artillery ammunition logistics for Ukraine. (A reader may ponder why Ukraine employs a policy of ammunition storage that is (more or less) centralised rather than more dispersed and therefore less of a military problem when such incidents (no matter how caused) occur.) Initial official statements claim about 50% of the stored munitions are lost. Unofficially that figure appears to be understated.
Regradless, such is the extent of the ammunition loss it seems very likely that in the absence of suitable domestic manufacturing capability, Ukraine may have to seek out and purchase stocks from the former Warsaw Pact nations.
Would any reader be surprised to note that The Kremlin also made a statement on the 23rd March to the effect it does not see the Minsk deal being implemented any time soon?
Thus reading between the lines, perhaps a reader may now expect some form of escalation that would require a Ukrainian artillery response over a period of time designed to yet further reduce remaining arty ammo stocks significantly?
Dependent upon the true scale of the munitions loss due to the blast, how quickly Kyiv can locate, purchase, and store old Warsaw Pact calibre artillery ammunition from neighbours remains to be seen. Whether the decentralising of ammunition storage is a policy result of this incident also remains to be seen.