Police in the Ukrainian city of Krivoy Rog have opened an investigation after its mayor, Konstantin Pavlov, was found dead at home from a gunshot wound to the chest, amid a crackdown on the country’s largest opposition party.
Pavlov’s body was discovered on the veranda of his house in the industrial city, which is around 400km (250 miles) south of Kiev, with a weapon reportedly lying close by. The 48-year-old politician was a member of the Opposition Platform – For Life party, which is the main opposition group in the country’s parliament. The faction is known for its criticism of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, and for calling for closer ties with Russia.
The authorities say it isn’t yet clear whether Pavlov’s death was suicide or if foul play could have been involved. However, Vadim Rabinovich, a prominent businessman and fellow party member said the mayor had been “killed” and that suggestions he took his own life were “a deliberate lie.” A source told local news outlet Strana that, after being hit by the bullet, Pavlov managed to stagger around 10 meters before he fell to the ground.
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Pavlov took office in December last year, beating the candidate from Zelensky’s ruling Servant of the People party to take the city’s top job. His success was largely hailed as being down to the fact that the previous mayor, Yuri Vilkul, who had led Krivoy Rog for a decade, backed out of the race on health grounds and endorsed Pavlov.
Before entering politics, Pavlov had held a number of industrial roles in the city, including working as an electrical fitter. During his time in office, he made public transport free of charge for the city’s residents in a move designed to relax pressure on household finances at a time when the national economy was faltering.
In May, Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Opposition Platform – For Life was detained by Ukrainian security services in a dramatic arrest. The serving MP is now facing high treason charges and has been placed under house arrest while prosecutors prepare the case, which is believed to be linked to business interests in Crimea, considered by Kiev to be its sovereign territory despite the reabsorption of the peninsula by Russia in 2014.
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Medvedchuk, whose party has sought to reverse the country’s political course since the 2014 Maidan revolution and seek reconciliation with Moscow, has rejected allegations the group are in the pocket of the Kremlin. “I completely throw out accusations of so-called pro-Russianness,” he said. “Our party received millions of votes of confidence during the last elections.” He added that recent polls had showed that his party had significantly increased its standing with the electorate, and said the prosecution was political.
Earlier this year, Medvedchuk told RT that such legal measures were now “commonplace” in Ukraine, and claimed that Zelensky was engaging in a campaign of “political repression,” as well as “establishing a dictatorship.”
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova defended the move, saying the politician and his associates had attempted to steal “national resources in Ukrainian Crimea [sic].” She added that the decision to prosecute Medvedchuk would show “you cannot consider Crimea to be part of another state.”
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