MOSCOW/Kiev - Russian security services raided the Moscow office of the opposition Open Russia group on Thursday, activists said, just as President Vladimir Putin held his annual televised phone-in.

Opposition members said on Twitter that law enforcement officials, some wearing black ski-masks, seized computers and files from the office of Open Russia, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an ex-oil tycoon who spent a decade in jail over tax evasion and fraud after falling out with the Kremlin, and who now lives in exile.

Putin’s phone-in was dominated by questions over Russia’s lagging economy, social issues and foreign policy, with just two opposition-related questions, about the killing of prominent Kremlin critic, Boris Nemtsov, in February. Putin’s critics hold him politically responsible for the killing of Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who became opposition leader and was gunned down just outside the Kremlin.

They say the death was a result of a Kremlin-led campaign to stifle dissent and persecute Putin critics. Putin has called the killing ‘tragic and shameful’ and urged law enforcement bodies to investigate the case in full. The Kremlin denies clamping down on the opposition and Putin said on Thursday his critics had the right to run in elections, including parliamentary polls due next year. But opposition parties have often been refused registration to run in elections during Putin’s 15-year rule and some opposition figures have faced court cases or jail sentences preventing them from seeking office. Moreover, an unidentified assailant shot dead a pro-Russian journalist in Ukraine Thursday leading Kiev to brand the latest murders of pro-Moscow figures an enemy ‘provocation’.

Reporter Oles Buzyna, 45, a supporter of Ukraine’s ousted Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych, was gunned down in central Kiev just hours after the slaying of former ruling party lawmaker Oleg Kalashnikov in the city.

Ukraine’s government said the killings of its opponents was aimed at disrupting its efforts to stabilise the country as it battles pro-Russian separatists in the east in a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people.

An AFP photographer saw Buzyna’s bloody body lying on the ground near a playground in the centre of the capital surrounded by police officers after the shooting. Police found Kalashnikov shot dead at his home in Kiev Wednesday evening. The killings follow a spate of suspicious deaths of former Yanukovych allies in February and March that raised suspicions among critics that the pro-EU government’s opponents were being persecuted.

President Petro Poroshenko called the latest killings ‘a deliberate provocation which plays into the hands of our enemies, destabilising the political situation in Ukraine’. Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted to the killing during a televised appearance on Thursday even before the shooting was officially confirmed. He called it ‘Ukraine’s latest political assassination’ and accused the Ukrainian government of doing nothing to investigate the deaths. Ukrainian interior ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said he suspected Russia of ordered the killings to sow ‘terror’ and make it look like Ukraine’s government was hunting down its rivals. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of arming the rebels who have gained control of much of eastern Ukraine, a charge Russia denies. Buzyna was a columnist and editor of the daily newspaper Segodnya, financed by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and a leading sponsor of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

The journalist also regularly appeared on Russian television commenting on the Ukraine crisis. Son of a KGB officer, Buzyna wrote on his website calling for the federalisation of Ukraine as desired by its former Soviet master Russia. Kalashnikov, 52, was accused of organising hired thugs to crack down on pro-European demonstrators last year during the uprising that led to Yanukovych’s ousting - dubbed the Maidan movement after the Kiev square where they rallied.

Interior ministry advisor Anton Gerashchenko said police had opened a murder investigation into Kalashnikov’s killing which will examine his political activities as well as other possible motives. ‘I do not exclude the possibility that these murders were organised by Russian special services to create an atmosphere of terror in Kiev, an atmosphere of hysteria, to show what happens to people who were against Maidan and against the new government,’ Gerashchenko said.

This week’s deaths followed a spate of apparent suicides by allies of Yanukovych, some of whom faced allegations of orchestrating a violent crackdown on the Maidan protests. Yanukovych’s 33-year-old son Viktor Jr. also died in February at the wheel of a vehicle that apparently fell through ice on Russia’s Lake Baikal. Some have called for a probe to quash any suspicion that top figures in the old Moscow-backed regime are being extrajudicially punished.

Kiev had denied any link between the earlier suicides, saying that in one case a former governor killed himself to avoid trial over the crackdown on protests. Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014 and Ukraine descended into conflict. Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 and fighting is rumbling on between pro-Moscow rebels and Ukrainian government forces in the east despite a February ceasefire.