- A Ukrainian veteran sniper was shot dead, and her husband, who was accused in 2012 of trying to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded near Kiev, Ukraine.
- The Chechen couple had fought against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas region of Ukraine and were considered heroes in the country.
- The incident is the latest in more than a dozen assassinations or attempted assassinations in Ukraine since 2014.
A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who was accused in 2012 of trying to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kiev, Ukraine.
Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road.
“She was shot in the head,” Osmayev told Lb.ua, a Ukrainian media outlet. “I drove as much as I could until the car stopped, I don’t know, the engine was also hit. I tried to give her first aid, but she was shot in the head.”
Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since accused Russia of orchestrating the attack. He said it was connected to a car bombing last week that wounded the Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who routinely insulted Russian politicians and once posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s hand-picked leader of Chechnya.
Okuyeva had once worked for Mosiychuk as an adviser, according to Reuters.
This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man named Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev who was masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner.
At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so he could give them a gift from his editors.
“When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,” Okuyeva told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after the June attack. “He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.”
Okuyeva then pulled out her gun and shot the would-be assassin three times before she “pounced on him with my bare hands and he gave up the gun,” she told the outlet.
Osmayev was shot in the chest, but his wife treated his wound “immediately,” and he survived that attack as well. Ukraine has since accused Russia of orchestrating the hit.
In 2012, Moscow accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Putin. He was arrested in Kiev in February 2012 on charges of possession of illegal explosives. At the behest of Russia, Ukrainian authorities charged him in connection with the plot.
But Kiev refused to extradite Osmayev, and the charges were eventually dropped. He was released from custody in November 2014 — months after Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, fled to Russia and fighting started in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Moscow in 2007 also accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Kadyrov.
Kadyrov has been implicated in several other assassinations, including the high-profile killing of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and most recently the car bombing in early September that killed Timur Mahauri, a Georgian citizen who fought with a volunteer Ukrainian battalion in the Donbas. Mahauri was reportedly a personal enemy of Kadyrov’s.
Okuyeva and Osmayev — both Muslims and ethnic Chechens — have been celebrated in Ukraine as heroes, having served in Chechen volunteer battalions fighting against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas.
Okuyeva, who reportedly wore her hijab in battle and fought for equality among men and women in the military, was a paramedic and sniper. Osmayev became commander of the volunteer Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion in 2015.
“I declare a war on the Russian Empire,” Okuyeva told Politico in 2014. “If Russian forces continue to fight in Ukraine, thousands of Chechen immigrants living in Europe, who had been ousted of their land during the two Chechen wars, will come to Ukraine to fight a war to defend this country.”
There have been at least 13 other assassinations — and many more attempts — in Ukraine since 2014. In one, a Ukrainian colonel who was reportedly investigating Russia for an international court case was killed in a car bombing in Kiev in late June.