When they arrested Timur Makhauri with two unregistered pistols and a bogus passport in downtown Kiev earlier this year, police thought they made a breakthrough in a string of unsolved contract murders. A judge saw Mr. Makhauri had a dark history of allegedly assassinating critics of the Kremlin in Turkey, and ordered him held on a high bond.
But soon police learned that nothing about Mr. Makhauri was quite what it seemed. Ukraine’s intelligence service began calling the police to urge his release, interior ministry officials said. Mr. Makhauri, who was mute at first, explained that he had numerous identities over the years—and sometimes acted like an assassin to catch the real Kremlin agents performing what, in Russian underworld parlance, was known as “wet work.”
In a jailhouse interview with The Wall Street Journal in February, Mr. Makhauri expanded upon the murky world he inhabited, politely answering questions about his life for two hours while handcuffed in a hallway. He worked as an agent, he said, wherever there was a fight against Moscow’s influence, including Chechnya, Georgia, Turkey and Syria. Ukraine, his last place of employment, would turn out to be more hazardous than he reckoned.