An entirely bizarre story is widely circulating in international headlines on the ‘accidental’ death of a high-ranking Ukrainian military commander.
A top aide to Ukraine’s armed forces commander-in-chief, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, died Monday after what was initially reported as an “unknown explosive device” went off inside a birthday present he was handed.
He’s been identified as Major Hennadii Chastiakov, and details have since emerged saying he was given a gift box full of grenades. An urgent Telegram post from Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs Ihor Klymenko might be among the strangest wartime announcements out of Kiev yet.
The post was translated by the Washington Post as follows: Gen. Valery Zaluzhny said that his assistant, Maj. Hennadii Chastiakov, was killed under “tragic circumstances” while celebrating his birthday with relatives when “an unknown explosive device went off in one of the gifts.” His 13-year-old son was also seriously injured, the National Police of Ukraine said.
The below image is now circulating on Ukrainian news sites and social media. The Washington Post commented: In one photo, what appear to be several grenades or grenade-shaped items are scattered across the floor. On social media, some jumped to the conclusion that Chastiakov’s death had been an assassination rather than a mistake. “I pray to God that this was a tragic coincidence and not a targeted attack,” wrote Dana Yarova, a member of the Defense Ministry’s anti-corruption council.
Regional reports have filled in some further alleged details, but there’s much that remains unclear and somewhat contradictory, given the very strange nature of the top officer’s death:
Chastiakov’s wife said the item that exploded was a grenade inside a gift bag, Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement source. The gift bag also contained a bottle of alcohol and shot glasses that looked like grenades, per the report.
The same report suggests the dangerous gift was given to Maj. Chastiakov by a lower-ranking soldier:
Klymenko said in a Telegram message that an exchange between Chastiakov and his son led to the accidental detonation of one of the grenades. Police later found five more unexploded grenades at his residence and identified a Ukrainian soldier who gave them to Chastiakov. The soldier’s office has been searched, and more grenades were found there, Klymenko said.
As for the above narrative account, it’s hard to imagine a “shot glass” resembling a grenade would lead to confusion with real “grenades” also present in the same gift. And why would a pin then be pulled? Possibly, he thought they were realistic-looking ‘toy grenades’ or some type of gag gift.
It’s also obviously a major question as to why someone would wrap up grenades in a present in the first place (unless the intent is to actually blow up the recipient).
Ukraine’s Gen. Valery Zaluzhny said that his assistant, Maj. Hennadii Chastiakov, was killed under “tragic circumstances” while celebrating his birthday. https://t.co/N0YCaHqi3e— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 6, 2023
One initial theory has been that it was no accident at all, but a targeted assassination of a key military decision-maker. Inside Russia, there’s been a string of assassinations by Ukrainian intelligence, with among the most notable being the car-bombing of Darya Dugina in August of 2022 outside Moscow. Perhaps this was a retaliatory Russian intelligence operation on Ukrainian soil?
Or else, could this have been the work of an internal rival faction within Ukraine? Has the night of the long knives begun in Ukraine? One thing is for sure–this is an incredibly strange story.