Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday promised a “forceful response” after gunmen opened fire on a car carrying his top aide in what officials said was retaliation for a push to stop the soldiers. oligarchs.
Sergiy Shefir, a 57-year-old former screenwriter and longtime partner of comedian-turned-politician Zelensky, was reportedly escaped without serious injury.
“Saying ‘hello’ to me shooting from the woods at my friend’s car is weak,” Zelensky said in a video statement from New York. “The response will be strong.”
Zelensky, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly, said it was not yet known who was behind the attack.
But he said: “This does not affect the course I have chosen with my team: towards change, towards removing the shadow from our economy, towards fighting criminals and large influential financial groups.”
Shefir called the attempt on his life an attempt to “intimidate” the presidency.
Police said they were considering possible motives.
Shefir may have been targeted for his work, or as part of an attempt to pressure Ukraine’s top leaders or destabilize “the political situation in our country,” Igor Klymenko, head of the national police, told reporters.
An adviser to Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko said on Facebook that the attack took place around 10 am (0700 GMT) on Wednesday near the town of Lisnyky south of the capital Kiev.
He said that Shefir’s driver was “seriously injured” and that the police had launched a special operation in the area.
“Unidentified people fired about 10 shots with a 7.62-caliber automatic weapon,” Ukraine’s Attorney General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook.
He said authorities had opened an investigation for attempted murder.
Photos released by authorities showed a black Audi with bullet holes in the hood and the driver’s side door.
Official reports did not say whether Shefir was injured, but a lawmaker representing Zelensky’s “Servant of the People” party said he was fine.
“I spoke briefly with him, everything is fine, he is alive and well,” Davyd Arakhamia was quoted as saying by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
He said the police had taken Shefir to a “safe” location.
Another aide in Zelensky’s office, Mykhailo Podolyak, told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency that the attack was in response to “policies aimed at limiting the traditional influence of shadow oligarchs.”
Zelensky, a former comedian with no prior political experience, won the elections in 2019 on the promise of restarting Ukraine’s political system and purging the influence of powerful oligarchs.
Western allies have repeatedly lobbied Kiev to tackle widespread corruption and reduce the power of the oligarchs.
Zelensky this year asked his government to develop a so-called “registry of oligarchs,” a list of tycoons who influence the media and politics in the country.
However, the names have yet to be revealed.
Zelensky’s assistant Shefir was born in the central industrial city of Kryvyi Rig and studied metallurgy, but as a student he began doing comedy for the popular KVN show with his brother, Boris.
In 2003 he co-founded a production company called “Kvartal 95” with Boris and Zelensky.
Shefir produced and wrote “Servant of the People,” a show in which Zelensky played a school teacher who became president and ultimately launched his political career.