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Published in Stream:
Day 973: October 17, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Zakharchenko Claims Ukraine Behind Killing Of Alleged War Criminal Motorola, Vows 'Proportionate Response'
5 years
Ukraine Reports 61 Attacks Yesterday: One Soldier KIA, Seven WIA

The leader of the Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk has accused Ukrainian agents of the killing of Russian militant Arsen Pavlov, aka Motorola, and vowed that there will be a "proportionate response."

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), told Russia's LifeNews last night:

"As I understand it, Poroshenko has broken off the ceasefire? Now wait. Enough of it, we have gone through so much suffering, we have made promises. And who used this murder? Well, I want now to turn to the Ukrainian soldiers, to the Ukrainian security service, the head of the intelligence directorate: My esteemed friends, comrades, bastards, scumbags, go now and be afraid, because for us death - this is no normal challenge, this a challenge to our whole republic."

Zakharchenko claimed this morning that his security forces had already established the responsible party for the bomb blast that killed Pavlov in an elevator in his apartment building.

 "There will be no mercy for you, believe it."

LifeNews, which has long been suspected of close ties to the Russian security services, has published video footage from the scene of the blast: 

Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister,denied that Ukrainian security agents had conducted the assassination, instead suggesting that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) may have been behind the killing.

Meanwhile a video was uploaded to a pro-separatist YouTube account at 19:55 GMT (21:55 Kiev time) last night, showing three masked men boasting about the assassination of Pavlov.

The men stand before the flag of the Misanthropic Division, an international neo-Nazi organization, some of whose members have fought on the Ukrainian side in the war. The group also participated in Friday's torchlight procession in Kiev organized by the Azov National Corps. 

One of the men says:

"This video was recorded in Donetsk, where our guys just liquidated the famous terrorist Motorola. Zakharchenko, Plotnitsky, you're next!"

The three then give a Nazi salute.

The description of the video claims that it was copied from a VKontakte account belonging to one Alexander Khausser, purportedly a 21-year-old neo-Nazi from Kiev and part of a group calling itself the Phoenix Jugend.

But no such video can be seen on the page, if it was uploaded there, it has subsequently been deleted.

Misanthropic Division's leader, calling himself Sergei, told Ukraine's 112 news channel today that his organization was not involved in the killing.

Instead, he said that Phoenix were a tiny organization of little influence who were "just poseurs" trying to attract attention.

Videos of this nature have appeared before, many of them apparently faked to portray Ukrainian ultra-nationalists boasting of war crimes or threatening terror attacks in western Europe. 

Pavlov, a Russian from Ukhta in the northern Komi Republic, was the commander of the Sparta Battalion and one of the most notorious fighters of the war. He fought in several of the most intense battles of the war, including Ilovaisk and Donetsk Airport. 

While celebrated by Russian and pro-separatist media, Pavlov was accused by returning Ukrainian prisoners of war of having summarily executed captured Ukrainian soldiers after the fall of Donetsk Airport.

Yuriy Sova, a Ukrainian paratrooper captured at the airport and held prisoner by the Sparta Battalion, said on his release that he had witnessed Pavlov executing another POW - Ihor Branovytsky.

In April last year, the Kyiv Post reported that Pavlov had told them by phone that he had shot 15 POWs dead.

“I’ve shot 15 prisoners. I don’t give a shit. No comment. I kill whoever I want.”

In this video, Pavlov can be seen mocking a Ukrainian commander captured during the fall of the airport shortly after he was abused and pistol-whipped by another militant commander, Mikhail Tolstykh, aka Givi.

As we reported yesterday, Pavlov survived several previous attempts on his life over the last two years, as has Zakharchenko. While he was the first high profile Russian or separatist figure to be assassinated in the Donetsk region, there has been a long string of militant leaders killed in the Lugansk region, most of them suspected to have been disposed of by forces loyal to the Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the so-called Lugansk People's Republic (LNR).

Interestingly, it was Pavlov's own battalion, Sparta, that was deployed by Zakharchenko to the Lugansk region last month, ostensibly to ensure security after Plotnitsky claimed that a "coup" against his leadership had been foiled. 

-- Pierre Vaux