A Ukrainian army major, the assistant to Commander of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valeri Zaluzhny was killed by an explosion in his home in an upscale Kiev suburb in the village of Chayki. According to news reports, the lethal gift was given by the senior assistant to the deputy commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine A. V. Timchenko. No other information is available so far on Timchenko. There are voices on social media saying the aide was assassinated.
The gift was a collection of defused and hollowed out hand grenades (western model) supposedly designed to open up into drinking glasses, and a bottle of strong vodka.
The victim was Major Gennady Chestyakov. According to some reports, he was opening his gifts when his 13 year old son tried to pull the firing pin out of one of the allegedly modified grenades. His father took the grenade from him and pulled the pin. The resulting explosion killed Major Chestyakov and seriously wounded his son who is now in a hospital.
There are some photos of the gifts received by Chestyakov. One of them shows four (of the five) grenades, a box that contained the bottle of vodka, and, oddly, a syringe. The leg of the deceased can be seen in the photo.
There is no information if the other hand grenades were also live weapons.
Zaluzhny issued a statement after the death of his assistant. “Unspeakable pain and severe loss for the Armed Forces of Ukraine and for me personally. Today, under tragic circumstances, my assistant and close friend, Major Gennady Chestyakov, died on his birthday in the family circle. An unknown explosive device worked in one of the gifts. Gennady has a wife and four children. My deep condolences to the family.”
The police are treating Chestyakov’s death as an accident. Internal Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Mariana Reva says the investigation is focused on the “due to careless handling of ammunition.” She said a pre-trial investigation was launched into the death of a person as well as under Art. 263 CCU “Illegal treatment of ammunition”.
There is no investigation, so far at least, on how a live explosive found its way into a gift handed to Chestyakov.
It is now well known that there is a power struggle between Zelensky and his top military commanders, primarily focused on Zaluzhny. Zaluzhny was criticized this week by Zelensky’s chief of staff Ihor Zhovkva for an interview Zaluzhny gave to the Economist Magazine. He told Zaluzhny to “keep his mouth shut.” In that interview Zaluzhny said that the war with Russia was not at a stalemate and, absent the arrival of new technologies (some of which has yet to be invented), Ukraine should be prepared for a long term freeze in the military situation. His comments directly undermined Zelensky’s bid for billions more in US assistance. In addition, Zaluzhny’s comments indirectly raised the idea that the future would be painful for Ukraine, hinting that negotiations with Russia offer the only way out.
Meanwhile, three related developments have occurred. Senior Polish General Waldemar Skrzypczak directly accused Zaluzhny of “sabotage.” In an interview in Poland he said: ““I would strip Zaluzhny of his position for mistakes in command. If he is responsible for this failed counteroffensive, I would regard this as sabotage, not a mistake. If my commander attacks the enemy where he is the strongest, this is a crime.” He accused Zaluzhny of sowing panic in NATO. Skrzypczak saw Zaluzhny’s comments as a “cry for help” but concluded that it was too late and that the war was lost.
Skrzypczak’s comments about the war’s end are damaging to Zelensky and reinforce the Zelensky government’s view that Zaluzhny has caused irreparable harm.
The second development came from Alexey Arestovich. Arestovich was a former advisor to Zelensky’s presidential office and is now a self-exile. He has accused Zelensky of “dehumanizing” the Russians which has only strengthened Russia’s patriotic appeals about the Ukraine war. He says he will now run for President should Zelensky permit a presidential election.
In early October Russia’s Interior Ministry added the former adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office, Alexey Arestovich, to its wanted list on unspecified charges a day after Arestovich participated in a forum for self-exiled Russian opposition activists and politicians in Estonia.
Zelensky’s campaign against Russian speakers and the Russian Orthodox Church continues. This week the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has designated Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, as a suspect in a criminal case related to his alleged active support of Moscow’s military operation against Kiev.
Zelensky said on November 6th that there would be no parliamentary elections this year because elections can’t be held under martial law. He signed a 90 day extension of Ukraine’s martial law edict, passed by the Ukrainian parliament which is a rubber stamp for Zelensky. While Zelensky has yet to talk about Presidential elections, as long as the war continues it is all but certain there won’t be any. Zelensky’s actions undermine the claim of his NATO supporters that Ukraine is a democratic country.
There is a good circumstantial case to be made that the death of Major Chestyakov may have been a political assassination intended to send a message to Zaluzhny that he could be next.