Ukrainian separatist gunned down in elite Moscow restaurant

Yevgeny Zhilin shot by unidentified man wearing false moustache and Panama hat

 Yevgeny Zhilin: rose to prominence during Ukraine’s pro-western revolution when the former police officer used his fight club and other businesses as the basis for a pro-Russian militia in his home city of Kharkiv. Photograph: Sergiy Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Yevgeny Zhilin: rose to prominence during Ukraine’s pro-western revolution when the former police officer used his fight club and other businesses as the basis for a pro-Russian militia in his home city of Kharkiv. Photograph: Sergiy Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

 

A prominent militant who backed the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine has been shot dead in a restaurant in an exclusive suburb of Moscow.

Witnesses said Yevgeny Zhilin was killed and his bodyguard seriously injured when they were gunned down by an unidentified attacker, who was wearing a false moustache, yellow-tinted sunglasses and a Panama hat.

The man and his female companion reportedly drank coffee while waiting for Mr Zhilin in an upscale restaurant in the elite Gorki-2 district near Moscow, which is dotted with the dacha country homes of top politicians and businessmen.

Andrei Kozar, Mr Zhilin’s bodyguard, told Russia’s Life News from hospital that they had arrived later than planned at the restaurant on Monday evening and the unidentified person they were supposed to meet there had already left.

“We sat down, ordered tea, and then the killer came over and put a few shots into him [Mr Zhilin] and me,” Mr Kozar said, adding that the attacker wore a false moustache, glasses, a hat and cape.

The bodyguard apparently failed to see any danger in the strangely dressed character and his companion, whom other witnesses said fled the restaurant in a waiting Range Rover.

Mr Kozar said Mr Zhilin (40) “had a wide range of activities and, let’s say, more than a few enemies”, adding that he suspected a Ukrainian connection to the killing.

Mr Zhilin rose to prominence during Ukraine’s pro-western revolution of winter 2013-14, when the former police officer used his fight club and other businesses as the basis for a pro-Russian militia called Oplot (“Stronghold”) in his home city of Kharkiv.

Members of Oplot clashed in Kharkiv – just 30km from the Russian border - with opponents of Ukraine’s then Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovich, as a struggle unfolded over which direction the country’s second city would take.

Ultimately, Mr Yanukovich and his allies fled to Moscow, Kharkiv officials fell into line behind the new Kiev government and Mr Zhilin reportedly fought alongside separatists in neighbouring Donetsk and Luhansk regions before moving to Russia.

Russian investigators said they suspected Mr Zhilin’s murder was linked to his business activities, but it came in the wake of Ukraine’s release of wiretaps that allegedly feature top Kremlin adviser Sergei Glazyev plotting separatist unrest in Ukraine in 2014 with – among others – the Oplot group in Kharkiv.

Mr Glazyev dismissed the claims, but Ukrainian prosecutors suggest the recordings could help form a future case against Russian officials at the International Criminal Court.