KYIV: Gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on a car carrying a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, in what officials said was an attempted assassination in response to his crackdown on oligarchs.
Sergiy Shefir, a 57-year-old former scriptwriter and longtime associate of comedian-turned-politician Zelensky, was reported to have escaped without serious injury.
An adviser to the interior minister, Anton Herashchenko, said on Facebook that the attack took place around 10 am (0700 GMT) on Wednesday near the village of Lisnyky south of the capital Kiev.
He said Shefir's driver was "seriously injured" and that police had launched a special operation in the area.
"Unidentified individuals fired about 10 shots from a 7.62 calibre automatic weapon," Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook.
She said the authorities had opened an attempted murder investigation.
Photos published by officials showed a black Audi with bullet holes along its bonnet and on the driver-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 briefly spoke to him, everything is fine, he is alive and well," Davyd Arakhamia was quoted by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
He said police had taken Shefir to a "safe" location.
- 'Shadowy oligarchs' -
Another aide in Zelensky's office said the attack was an attempt to "demonstrably kill a key member of the team".
Mykhailo Podolyak told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency the attack was in response to "politics directed at limiting the traditional influence of shadowy oligarchs".
Zelensky's spokesman said on Facebook that the president, who was on a working visit to the United States, would soon make a public statement.
Sergiy Nykyforov said no "insidious actions" would affect the president's plans to "de-shadow and de-oligarch" Ukraine.
Shefir was born in the industrial central city of Kryvyi Rig and studied to be a metallurgist, but as a student 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, who was elected president in 2019.
Shefir produced and wrote the "Servant of the People", a show in which Zelensky portrayed a schoolteacher who becomes president and which eventually launched his political career.