The suspected assassin of a Russian army officer was the former head of Ukraine’s leading karate association, Russian media has reported.
Sergei Denysenko, 64, was named by Russian authorities after his arrest on Monday in the town of Tuapse, more than 100 miles north of Krasnodar, where Stanislav Rzhitsky was shot dead in a park while jogging on 10 July. His route was publicly available via the Strava fitness app, and it has been suggested that his location was tracked using the tool.
Police said a pistol with a silencer was found at the suspect’s apartment. A video of the arrest was released with the suspect’s face blurred.
Russian authorities also published a video purportedly of the moments before Mr Rzhitsky’s death, which showed him being followed by a man on a bicycle with a hat pulled down over his face.
Mr Denysenko, originally from the Ukrainian city of Sumy, was identified by several media outlets as the former president of the Ukrainian Karate Foundation, a highly decorated black belt who had devoted his life to the sport.
Public social media profiles for the suspect show he worked at the Ukrainian Karate Federation (UKF) and the Ukrainian Shotokan Karate Foundation. Neither body immediately responded to a request for comment.
Russian crime media outlet VChK-OGPU published an interview with associates of the suspect, who claimed he is innocent. “Sergey Denysenko is not capable of this. He is a qualified professional trainer,” said Boris Klimenko, a former colleague at the UKF, according to the outlet.
Images circulating on social networks purportedly show Mr Denysenko visiting a karate institute in the Ukrainian town of Bucha last year shortly after its liberation from Russian occupation.
As the UKF scaled down its activities, he was said to have this year relocated to Russia, where he has a daughter living in Tuapse.
Russian state media reported that investigators had established that the suspect was raising funds for the Ukrainian army. But Russian human rights group Gulagu alleged that he was beaten and threatened to extract confessions.
Family and friends of Mr Rzhitsky denied claims that he was a submarine captain responsible for firing missiles at targets in Ukraine.
“He submitted his resignation report long before the start of the special operation in Ukraine,” his father, Leonid, told state media.
Mr Rzhitzky had instead become a mobilisation officer in the city of Krasnodar as he sought to wind down his army career, his father claimed.
The officer’s parents said their son was aware he had appeared on the pro-Ukrainian Peacemaker website, which lists targets for assassinations.
Russian media reports have speculated that Mr Rzhitzky was targeted through his running route, which was publicly available via Strava.
His route was “liked” by an account with the name of Ukrainian intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, who has acknowledged previous assassinations.
Ukraine’s military subsequently published a detailed account of the killing, including the number of shots fired.
Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian MP and current spokesman for the Freedom of Russia defector legion, suggested that Russian partisans were responsible for the attack.
“Keep going, friends,” he wrote on Telegram. “Thank you brave Russians for bringing Russia’s freedom closer, not by word but by deed.”