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Shots fired at Ukraine presidential aide’s car in assassination bid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with Latvian President Levits following their meeting at Riga Palace in Riga, Latvia, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/TOMS KALNINS

KYIV, Sept 22 (Reuters) - A volley of shots was fired at a car carrying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's principal aide on Wednesday in what a senior official called an assassination attempt.

By Pavel Polityuk

More than 10 bullets hit the car near the village of Lesnyky, just outside the capital Kyiv, wounding the driver, a police statement said. It said a criminal case on suspicion of premeditated murder had been opened.

A local television station said at least 19 bullet holes could be seen on the driver’s side of the car.

A senior lawmaker said the aide, Serhiy Shefir, was not hurt. Shefir is close to the president, leading a group of advisers.

Zelinskiy, who is in the United States attending the U.N. General Assembly, said he did not know who was behind the attack, but it could domestic or foreign powers.

“Who is behind this, frankly, I do not know. What are these powers? Could be internal, maybe external. Saying ‘hello’ to me with shots from the forest at my friend’s car is a weakness,” He said in a televised statement.

The head of the president’s political party, Oleksandr Korniienko, said Russia could be behind the attack.

“A Russian trace should not be absolutely ruled out. We know their ability to organise terrorist attacks in different countries,” Korniienko told reporters.

The Kremlin said suggestions of Russian involvement “have nothing to do with reality”. at the U.N. General Assembly.

Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the attaempt to assassinate the aide could be a result of the president’s fight against the country’s oligarchs.

“This open, deliberate and extremely violent assault with automatic weapons cannot be qualified any differently than as an attempted killing of a key team member,” Podolyak told Reuters.

“We, of course, associate this attack with an aggressive and even militant campaign against the active policy of the head of state,” Interfax Ukraine quoted Podolyak as saying.

“The president’s policy aimed at fundamental transformation of the state will remain unchanged,” he told Reuters, promising tougher measures against oligarchs.

Parliament is this week due to debate a presidential law directed on reducing the influence of oligarchs. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and lya Zhegulev ; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Giles Elgood)

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