The Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia had choreographed a fake assassination of Vitaly Gura, deputy head of the town of Novaya Kakhovka in the Kherson region of Ukraine. The official has divulged the fact that Russia did it to save him from an assassination attempt by Ukraine.
Reports of the pro-Russian official’s murder had emerged on 6 August, with local authorities saying that Ukrainian forces had shot him dead near his home in Novaya Kakhovka and that he died on his way to the hospital. This was the latest in a series of attacks on officials and security chiefs in Russian-controlled towns and villages of Ukraine in recent months, which Moscow has blamed on Kyiv.
But today, Gura, who was considered dead for more than a month, appeared for an interview with Channel One based in Russia, saying that a covert operation by the FSB had kept him alive all this while. “In early August, law enforcement agencies approached me and said that an assassination attempt on me was being prepared. They provided recordings proving it,” he said.
Still hiding, Gura insists that he will return to his job in Novaya Kakhovka. He is under the protection of the FSB. “I want to tell everybody that I’ll be back. I’ll keep working. I’m not afraid,” he said.
In early July, Russia had staged an assassination similarly to get Novaya Kakhovka’s deputy police chief Sergey Tomka out of harm’s way, according to Channel One. The broadcaster said that the operation had started in mid-June with a grenade blast at a cafe frequented by members of the town’s administration. The perpetrator of the attack, which did not result in any casualty, was detained and agreed to cooperate with Russian counterintelligence.
The would-be killer had apparently been communicating with Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), through an officer identified as Ilya Bondarchuk, who offered money for killing Novaya Kakhovka officials. The targeted individuals were then put under FSB supervision.
The news of what appeared to be two successful assassinations prompted Bondarchuk to provide his supposed agent with data on a cell of saboteurs preparing attacks in Crimea.
All members of that cell were later detained, while Bondarchuk, who recruited assassins remotely, continues to operate in Ukrainian-controlled territory, Channel One said. “The SBU leadership decided to take the easy route. They use persons from among the nationalist youths, from the marginal circles. This places Ukraine in the same category as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), which sees terrorist attacks as the only means of achieving its goals,” an unnamed FSB officer told the broadcaster.
How Russia fooled Western media
On 6 August, media in the West had reported that two top Russian collaborators had suffered apparent assassination attempts in Ukraine’s occupied Kherson Oblast, where a partisan resistance is underway. One, they claimed, died.
The Western media reported Deputy Head of Nova Kakhovka Vitaly Gura first to be hospitalised and in serious condition. Explosive shell casings from a Makarov gun were found at the scene of the attack, they said. Later, Russian media RIA reported subsequently that he had died, citing an official of a district in Kherson Oblast, Leontiev.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Saldo, the pro-Russia governor in Kherson Oblast, was taken to the toxicological department of the Moscow Sklifasovsky Institute in a medical coma the same month, the Russian media reported, citing the Telegram channels Baza and Mash, and the West believed the story.
In a news environment where major search engines first blocked Russian media and then shadow-banned Russian news outlets, Western journalists still peeped into Russian Telegram channels that told them that Saldo was in serious condition in intensive care. Baza reported that the official had been flown in by a special plane from Crimea on 6 August, where he was reportedly hospitalised the previous day.
The toxicological intensive care unit of the institute has the only chemical-toxicological laboratory in Moscow capable of determining poisoning agents, Baza wrote and the West believed!