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Published in Press Stream:
Day 1114

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Published in Stream:
Day 1114
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Is Col. Kiselyev of the Russia-Backed Army of the South East Still Alive?
3 years
Stream: Day 1114
Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed, 7 Wounded, 2 Concussed in Last 24 Hrs; Ukraine Provides Evidence to World Court
Readers may recall we have covered the operations of the Russia-backed Col. Vitaly Kiselyev, a Donbass native leading the separatists known by the call-sign "Kommunist" who would wear a Soviet-style cap with a red star. He was deputy head of the self-styled "people's militia" of the self-declared "Lugansk People's Republic" (LNR), later described as the Army of the South East.

He was frequently featured by pro-Russian sites in videos uploaded to YouTube. One in December 2014 showed him leading training with a BPM-97 Combat Border Vehicle, which could have only been obtained from Russia's FSB Border Guards. 

He was also at the battle of Debaltsevo in February 2015, and together with a Buryat soldier from Russia, lifted up the separatist flags over the administration building (shown here on the right).

Set as default press image
2017-03-08 02:47:39

The Lugansk city news site and the Ukrainian news site published articles today titled "Is 'Kommunist' Still Alive? Topic of Kisilyev Discussed Again on Web"

They said without providing links that separatist news sites had reported that Kisilyev was detained in the fall of 2016 by soldiers of the LNR for an alleged assassination attempt on Igor Plotnitsky, the self-styled head of the LNR.

A source within the LNR was reported to say (translated by The Interpreter):

"He was jailed last autumn. They beat him really hard. They knocked the truth out of him. Then there was news that he had not withstood the physical methods of pressure and died from torture. But then later that information was refuted."

Even Kisilyev's closest relatives did not know where he was being held, had no visits with him, nor knew of his condition. In January, again there was news that Kiselyev had died during an interrogation. 

In January, the self-styled "prosecutor general" also said Kiselyev had been charged ultimately with "enabling actions aimed at the violent seizure of power" which in the DNR is punishable by imprisonment from 12 to 20 years. 

Kiselyev was said to fully admit his guilt for the crimes with which he was charged, and was said to have recanted, and given testimony about the circumstances of the plot and the other people involved in it.

He was then ordered to be placed under guard "taking into account his written statement, and is kept in a place guaranteeing the security of his life and health."

But it has not been confirmed that he is still alive. Other former commanders have died in prison or been assassinated; at least 9 major leaders, most recently "Givi" (Mikhail Tolstykh) have been murdered, often with rumors that they challenged Plotnitsky. Meanwhile, Plotnitsky and other LNR leaders blame the Ukrainian army for these deaths.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick