Notorious leader of Ukraine’s protests shot dead. Circumstances are in dispute.


Aleksandr Muzychko, the ultra-right militant leader in Ukraine, at the West-Ukrainian city of Rivne, Ukraine on February 28, 2014. (Petro Hromyh/EPA)

Oleksandr Muzychko, an ultra-nationalist member of Ukraine’s recent protests who was wanted in Russia for alleged war crimes, was shot dead late Monday in the western Ukrainian city of Rivne, according to reports by Russian news outlets, RT and Interfax.

There were conflicting accounts of what happened to the man also known as Sashko Biliy.

According to Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Doniy, writing in a Facebook update, unknown assailants cut off Muzychko’s car just before midnight, bringing it to a halt. Muzychko, a bald bear of a man who led the ultra-nationalist group Right Sector, was dragged out of the car, cuffed, and shot twice in the chest.

“Those who killed him made sure that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest and then shot him in the heart,” said Right Sector activist Yaroslav Hranitskiy, reports the Moscow Times.

Interfax, the Russian news agency, said Muzychko opened fire on law enforcement officers.

RT, quoted Ukrainian First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Yevdokimov saying that the “operation to arrest him took place in a village where the militant leader and three of his bodyguards, all of them armed, were in a local restaurant, called ‘The Three Crucians.’

An assault group from the Sokol special police task force stormed the restaurant to detain Muzychko and his henchmen. The militant leader made an attempt to flee through a window. He opened fire, and two of his bullets wounded a police officer, who returned fire and shot Muzychko in the leg. Other police officers shot in the air, Yevdokimov said.

Russia had accused Muzychko of perpetrating terrible acts of brutality during the Chechen war. Earlier this month, nearly two decades after the Chechen conflict subsided, the Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal inquiry against Muzychko.

Spokesman Vladimir Markin accused Muzychko of “killing at least 20 [Russian] soldiers held in captivity,” and put him on the “international most wanted list.”

A photograph on Twitter shows a man identified as Muzychko dead on the ground. His shirt is open revealing what appear to be several gunshot wounds.

Muzychko was a man of combustible temperament. Late last month, a video of him grabbing a man by the necktie and shouting obscenities circulated widely in pro-Kremlin media. Around that same time, he also expressed suspicion the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office had plans to kill him, according to the Moscow Times.

“I am not afraid of death,” he reportedly said in a YouTube video. My “friends, brothers, patriots” will “continue the battle.”

Washington Post correspondent Will Englund contributed to this story from Moscow.

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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