A Ukrainian journalist known for his pro-Russian views was gunned down Thursday in broad daylight in Kiev, local police said, a day after a pro-Russian lawmaker was found dead.
Oles Buzyna, 45, was killed early Thursday afternoon by two masked men shooting from a passing car, the Ukrainian interior ministry said in a statement.
Buzyna, who ran for a seat in parliament on the Russian Bloc ticket in 2012, was largely perceived as an activist rather than a journalist. He had a three-month stint as the editor-in-chief of Segodnya, a newspaper owned by Rinat Akhmetov — a Russia-leaning tycoon believed to be Ukraine's richest man — before he resigned in March citing censorship pressures.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his annual televised call-in show, was informed by the moderator of reports of Buzyna's death and immediately said "this is not the first political killing in Ukraine, there's a series of such killings."
The killing is particularly ominous following another high-profile death on Wednesday. Oleh Kalashnikov, a lawmaker from ex-President Viktor Yanukovych's party, was found dead on the landing of his home in Kiev with a gunshot wound. Police would not immediately say whether he was murdered or killed himself.
Another prominent Russian politician, the chairman of the upper parliament house's foreign affairs committee, also denounced Buzyna's death as political.
"How many more victims will it take for the world to realize that in Ukraine there are deliberate political killings time after time," said Konstantin Kosachev.
Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said in a Facebook post that Buzyna — like Kalashnikov — was a key witness in a criminal case related to pro-Russian activists who in early 2014 attacked the pro-Western protests on Kiev's main square. The protests eventually led to the ouster of the Kremlin-friendly Yanukovych, who fled the country in February last year.
Herashchenko called on all witnesses in the case or anyone who might have information about it to contact the police if they fear for their safety. The minister said the killings "could be" orchestrated by Russia in order to "destabilize the situation in Ukraine from within."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also linked the two deaths, blaming them on the country's "enemies" who try to "discredit the political choice of the Ukrainian people."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf condemned the murders and called for "a complete, thorough, and transparent investigation."
Dunja Mijatovic, representative for freedom of the media at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also condemned Buzyna's murder and urged for an immediate investigation.
On Monday, another Ukrainian journalist was killed in Kiev. Police say Sergei Sukhobok died in a fight with neighbours with whom he had been feuding. Sukhobok worked for a Donetsk-based news website that focused on business affairs in eastern Ukraine and had criticized the tycoon Akhmetov.