The chief aide to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was today targeted in an assassination attempt when his car came under fire, the country’s interior minister said.
Gunmen armed with automatic weapons fired at Serhiy Shefir’s car near the village of Lesnyky, just south of the capital Kiev, leaving the driver seriously injured, Anton Gerashchenko said.
‘More than 10 bullets hit the car. The driver is seriously injured,’ Mr Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook.
The shots were fired from the woods with automatic weapons at around 10am on Wednesday and Ukraine’s National Police said a criminal case on suspicion of premeditated murder has been opened.
A local television station said at least 19 bullet holes could be seen on the driver’s side of the car. Images from the scene show the black Audi with a number of bullet holes in the car.
One of Zelensky’s aides said the assassination attempt could be in response to the president’s fight against oligarchs while another said Russia could be behind the attack. Sherif himself said called the attack an attempt to ‘intimidate’ the presidency.
Zelensky promised a ‘strong response’ to the attack. He said: ‘Saying ‘hello’ to me by shooting out of the forest at my friend’s car is weak. The response will be strong.’
An investigator examines bullet holes in a car of Serhiy Shefir following an assassination attempt on Wednesday
Images from the scene show the black Audi with a number of bullet holes in the car
The chief aide to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (centre), Serhiy Shefir (left), was today targeted in an assassination attempt when his car came under fire, the country’s interior minister said
Gunmen armed with automatic weapons fired at Serhiy Shefir’s car near the village of Lesnyky, just south of the capital Kiev, leaving the driver seriously injured
Shefir may have been targeted for his work, or as part of a bid to pressure Ukraine’s top leadership or destabilise ‘the political situation in our country,’ Igor Klymenko, head of the national police, told reporters.
‘Unidentified individuals fired about 10 shots from a 7.62 calibre automatic weapon,’ Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook.
She added that an investigation was underway for a case of ‘attempted murder’.
A senior lawmaker said the aide, Serhiy Shefir, was not hurt. Shefir is close to the president, leading a group of advisers.
‘I briefly spoke to him, everything is fine, he is alive and well,’ Davyd Arakhamia was cited by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Zelenskiy, who came to power on a promise to take on the country’s oligarchs and fight corruption, is currently in the United States at the U.N. General Assembly.
Markers are attached next to bullet holes in a car of Serhiy Shefir following the assault
The shots were fired from the woods with automatic weapons at around 10am on Wednesday
Bullet holes can be seen on the driver’s side of Mr Shefir’s car after the assassination attempt
Russia could be behind an assassination attempt against Shefir, the head of the president’s political party, Oleksandr Korniienko, said.
‘A Russian trace should not be absolutely ruled out. We know their ability to organise terrorist attacks in different countries,’ Korniienko told reporters.
Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the assassination attempt could be a result of the president’s fight against the oligarchs.
‘This open, deliberate and extremely violent assault with automatic weapons cannot be qualified any differently than as an attempted killing of a key team member,’ Podolyak told Reuters.
‘We, of course, associate this attack with an aggressive and even militant campaign against the active policy of the head of state,’ Interfax Ukraine quoted Podolyak as saying.
‘The president’s policy aimed at fundamental transformation of the state will remain unchanged,’ he told Reuters, promising tougher measures against oligarchs.
Speaking about the attack being described as a response to Zelensky’s policies on reigning in the influence of oligarchs, the president said: ‘This does not affect the course that I have chosen with my team – towards changes, towards de-shadowing our economy, towards fighting criminals and large, influential financial groups.’
Parliament is this week due to debate a presidential law directed on reducing the influence of oligarchs.
Shefir, 57, was born in the industrial central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rig.
He studied to be a metallurgist, but as a student began doing comedy for the popular KVN show with his brother, Boris.
In 2003 he co-founded a production company called ‘Kvartal 95’ with his brother Boris and Zelensky, a former comedic-actor turned president in 2019.
Shefir produced and wrote the ‘Servant of the People,’ a comedic show in which Zelensky portrayed a schoolteacher who becomes president.
‘Anyone who has any information about the circumstances of the attempted life of two Ukrainian citizens, please report to the police on 102,’ Ukraine’s National Police said in a statement.