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Former State Duma deputy went to Kiev, got Ukrainian citizenship, and is now criticizing Putin. But who is Denis Voronenkov?

Meduza
14:01, 15 february 2017

Photo: Vladimir Fedorenko / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA

In October 2016, former Communist Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov moved to Kiev and became a Ukrainian citizen shortly thereafter. He also testified against former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office. On February 14, he compared Russia to Nazi Germany. He never said anything of the sort while living in Moscow. Meduza reports what is known about Denis Voronenkov.

What was Voronenkov known for in Russia?

Denis Voronenkov became a State Duma deputy from the Communist Party in 2011 and served on term in parliament. In 2016, he failed to be re-elected. Over his five-year tenure, Voronenkov only managed to pushed one bill through parliament, namely one on limiting the proportion of foreigners in the Russian media (because of which there were changes in the ownership of publications Vedomosti and Russia’s Forbes, amongst others). He also fought for a law against off-shoring. It was later discovered that he himself was guilty of off shoring. Of all of the committee in the Duma, he was only a member of one – that which fights corruption.

Voronenkov dedicated his professional life to the public service. He worked in the Military Prosecutor’s Office, the State Duma, the Supreme Court, as deputy mayor of Naryan-Mar, and as deputy head of the Nenets Autonomous District. In 2015, Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation accused Voronenkov of embezzlement, as his official salary could hardly allow him to buy five apartments, five cars, and a summer residence.

Voronenkov was a defendant in at least two criminal cases. In 2014, the Investigation Committee, suspecting Voronenkov of being guilty of corporate raid, could not get the deputy deprived of parliamentary immunity despite its efforts. In the early 2000s, Voronenkov was investigated on accusations of bribery. In addition, entrepreneur Anna Atkin accused him of being involved in the murder of her business partner Andrei Burlakov.

What really made Voronenkov famous in Russia was that his wedding was the most extravagant in the State Duma. He is married to former United Russia deputy and opera singer Maria Maksakova. In April 2016, they had their first child.

What happened to Voronenkov in Ukraine?

In early December 2016, Ukrainian newspaper Dumsaya reported that Denis Voronenkov and Maria Maksakova had moved to Kiev. It became known in January 2017 that Voronenkov testified in the case against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, the testimony of Voronenkov and that of another former State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev (he, too, moved to Ukraine) “indicate that [the] entry of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory was launched by the Kremlin in December [2013] when the Maidan was still ongoing in the center of Kiev.”

Voronenkov himself did not comment on his testimony before February 2017. On February 14, publication Censor.net.ua, which is blocked in Russia, published a long interview with Voronenkov in which he made a few statements that are considered unusual for a Russian deputy (even a former one), including that:

  • He was given Ukrainian citizenship in December 2016. (He failed to indicate precisely how.)
  • It was wrong for Russia to have annexed Crimea and that he did not vote for the annexation, but that his colleagues voted in his stead without permission.
  • The current head of Rosneft’s security service, former FSB director Oleg Feoktistov, was involved in an assassination attempt against Voronenkov in 2007.
  • The Russian government has “lost its mind in a pseudo-patriotic frenzy” and the current atmosphere in Russia is similar to that of Nazi Germany.

After this interview, the Communist Party promised to kick Voronenkov out. His wife Maria Maksakova claims that he is not a member of the party. Russia’s Gnessin Academy of Music has, in turn, promised to dismiss Maksakova. It is unknown whether she will remain at the Mariinsky Theatre.