Assassination of Xu Shaoyong and Yuri Golitsyn

  1. Image
    A portrait of Xu Shaoyong smiling for the camera and standing in front of a white background.
    Xu Shaoyong, pictured in 2049.
  2. Image
    A photo of Russian businessman Yuri Golitsyn speaking at a press conference, wearing a suit and with a slightly annoyed expression on his face.
    Yuri Golitsyn, pictured in 2049.

At 16:51 CST on September 30th 2049, Xu Shaoyong and Yuri Golitsyn were assassinated when a security drone fired a missile at Xu’s helicopter as it was touching down at Beijing Daxing International Airport, killing everyone aboard. Golitsyn’s presence in the helicopter was not known until October 1st 2049. It is currently unclear whether Xu, Golitsyn, or both men were the target of the attack.

Chinese authorities are treating the assassination as a cyberattack that compromised the drone to fire a missile at Xu’s helicopter. A joint investigation between the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and Zhupao has established a possible link to Adira, with one unnamed suspect in custody.

Attack

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A photo taken of Xu Shaoyong's helicopter moments after it was destroyed by a drone missile impacting the passenger compartment.

Xu Shaoyong’s helicopter at Beijing Daxing International Airport, moments after it was destroyed by a drone missile impacting the passenger compartment.

On September 30th 2049, Xu Shaoyong was due to arrive at Beijing Daxing International Airport at 17:00 CST for the first centennial celebration of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1st 2049. Xu’s private helicopter was coming in for a landing on the west side of the airport when a nearby security drone banked away from its patrol route and fired a single missile, which struck the left side of the helicopter’s passenger compartment at 16:51 CST. The impact and resulting explosion detonated the helicopter, which killed everyone aboard. The wreckage then crashed to the ground from a height of 20 metres.

Members of Xu’s welcoming committee and airport staff attempted to approach the helicopter wreckage, but had to retreat due to the heat and flames. Two crash tenders were immediately deployed and managed to extinguish the fire at 17:28 CST. All security drones were immediately grounded by the airport’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) detachment. The drone that fired the missile, which was closest to Xu’s helicopter at the time of the attack, flew away from its post-fire holding pattern after 34 seconds and touched down near the entrance of a PLA hangar, where a team of soldiers was seen carrying it inside at 16:57 CST. [1]

Between 17:00 and 18:00 CST, Beijing Daxing airport was evacuated, all incoming flights were rerouted, and the area around the crash site was cordoned off, with PLA soldiers cautioning fire and rescue crews away from the helicopter wreckage. The PLA cordon has remained in place and a canopy was erected to cover the wreckage at 19:40 CST. An investigative team from the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) arrived at 18:25 CST and reportedly clashed with PLA officials after initially not being allowed past their cordon of the crash site. The PLA has clarified that this was because the bodies were still being recovered from the wreckage at that time. MPS Police Commissioner General Ren Yinpeng has accused the PLA of “obstruction,” adding that MPS investigators have not been given access to the compromised drone or any data retrieved from it. [2]

At 21:15 CST, senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials ordered the airport to resume operations to avoid further disruptions to the scheduled arrivals of international dignitaries and officials for the PRC centennial celebrations. On October 1st 2049, Russian state authorities confirmed that one of the bodies recovered from Xu’s helicopter belonged to Yuri Golitsyn. [3] According to Golitsyn’s staff, he was planning on attending the PRC centennial and had requested to arrive in Beijing a day ahead of the celebrations. Golitsyn landed at Beijing Capital International Airport at 14:30 CST on September 30th 2049 and was not seen after exiting the airport. It is not known how he was able to board Xu’s helicopter before it took off from a private helipad in Beijing at 16:11 CST. [4][5]

Investigation

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A promotional photo of a Dragonfly M5-X unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sitting on the tarmac at Beijing Daxing International Airport. The UAV is not equipped for any specific purpose, showing the basic model.

Promotional photo of a Dragonfly M5-X drone, the type used in the attack.

Chinese authorities are currently treating the incident as a cyberattack that interfered with the drone’s identification friend or foe (IFF). A preliminary PLA investigation of the drone has revealed that its IFF system was compromised to match Xu’s helicopter to the threat profile of an unauthorised UAV entering the airport’s perimeter and ignoring repeated warnings to turn back. The missile was then fired without authentication from the drone’s human operator. [6]

An ongoing investigation by Zhupao has determined that the drone’s G6-linked systems were compromised at 16:50 CST on September 30th 2049. One MPS official was quoted as saying that the cyberattack originated from a Datalign customer service terminal, though Zhupao has not officially commented on this. At 15:00 CST on October 1st 2049, PCG Ren announced that a suspect has been taken into custody in connection with the cyberattack and that there may be a link to Adira based on the Zhupao investigation. [7] The identity of the suspect has not been released to the public.

Ziyan UAV, the company that manufactures the type of drone involved in the attack, issued a statement in the evening of September 30th 2049 to disclaim any responsibility for the attack, stating it was impossible for the drone to have “autonomously selected a civilian helicopter as a hostile.” Ziyan UAV has previously faced scrutiny for a string of incidents involving drones engaging their own targets, resulting in numerous casualties and injuries. [8]

International response

PRC President Mao Bo, who was quickly ushered away from an official function when news of the assassination broke, has vowed “swift and bloody revenge on those responsible.” He also announced that the PRC centennial would go ahead, proclaiming that “[China’s] spirit cannot be broken.” On October 1st 2049, Mao observed a series of ceremonial events and called on the Chinese people to “let this terrible tragedy unite [them].” Despite the CCP’s assurances that all necessary precautions were being taken, including a heightened police presence, many international leaders cancelled their plans to visit Beijing, or chose to stay in their hotel rooms or embassies during the celebrations. [9]

United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Maria Vahekeni Cardoso appeared at a press conference at 22:00 CST on September 30th 2049, urging calm and pledging “the full support of her office.” [10] On her behalf, Interpol reached out to the MPS to aid in the investigation but has not received a reply, which has been attributed to ongoing tensions between Interpol and China.

Russian President Denis Molchalin appeared to dismiss the news of the assassination on September 30th 2049, but struck a harsher tone when it was confirmed that Golitsyn was also aboard the helicopter. Molchalin is currently in talks with the CCP to coordinate their countries’ responses, with plans to send an investigative team to Beijing. [11]

See also

References

  1. Huang, Y. (September 2049). “Breaking: Xu Shaoyong killed by malfunctioning drone.” Xinhua
  2. Liu, K. (September 2049). “Police and army investigators ‘clash’ at scene of attack that killed Zhupao founder.” China Daily
  3. Agafonov, B. (October 2049). “President Molchalin announces Yuri Golitsyn as victim of Chinese cyberattack that claimed life of Xu Shaoyong. “ government.ru
  4. Fairchild, S. (October 2049). “Chinese police investigating Golitsyn’s movements in Beijing on suspicion of anti-G6 tech.” Wall Street Journal
  5. McKee, B. (October 2049). “Secret meeting between Xu Shaoyong and Yuri Golitsyn interrupted by attack that kills both.” Euronews
  6. Lawer, J. (September 2049). “PLA issues statement confirming airport drone was hacked by external intrusion.” Associated Press
  7. Xiaoming, F. (October 2049). “Police Commissioner General Ren Yinpeng announces suspect arrest, claims connection to Adira.” Xinhua
  8. Weilong, L. (September 2049). “Ziyan CEO claims drone platform not at fault, takes aim at PLA and G6.” China News Digest
  9. Kross, J. (October 2049). “Even in death, Xu Shaoyong manages to upstage Mao Bo.” Al Jazeera
  10. Liu, K. (September 2049). “UN Secretary-General Cardoso pledges ‘full support of office’ to China.” China Daily
  11. Mucha, M. (October 2049). “President Molchalin in talks with China for joint investigation into death of Yuri Golitsyn.” Rossiyskaya Gazeta