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Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
SBU ID's Russian Lieutenant Colonel as GRU
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The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported from Slaviansk 17 April noting a sighting of the now-famous Russian Army lieutenant colonel shown in a widely-discussed video uploaded to YouTube by Alexey Goncharenko, deputy of the Odessa Regional Council, on 14 April. The Russian officer was filmed in Gorlivka as he appointed a new police chief and ordered a line-up of police officers to take control of the city. The Interpreter published a transcript of the video here.

Later, other press reports said the lieutenant colonel's name is Igor Bezler, and that he was a criminal underworld figure who had been dismissed from a local funeral business for stealing 38 grave stones and extorting money from elderly people for grave sites. Novaya Gazeta added that the lieutenant colonel was nicknamed "Bes" ("Demon") and even obtained his autograph and another photo, as he laughed  off the claims of theft and implied the story was entirely made up. There was a hint that he might be with the GRU (Russian military intelligence) but it was at first not stated explicitly.

Then on 18 April, Novaya Gazeta added a postscript to their 17 April article noting that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) had put out a wanted notice for Bezler and identified him as a GRU agent. Novaya Gazeta then published a second, more definitive article on 18 April. The Interpreter has provided an excerpt translation:

"According to the SBU's information, Igor Bezler was born in 1965, and served until 2002 in divisions of the Russian Federation Armed Forces General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (the GRU), and in fact did reach the rank of lietenant colonel. After 2002, he was sent to Ukraine.

In February of this year, agents of the GRU restored communications with Bezler and ordered him to head to the Crimea, where he took part in the forcible actions to seize military bases, government bodies and offices, Ukrainian law-enforcement said. In April, beside the seizure of the local department of the Interior Ministry [police] in Gorlovka, Bezler also took part in a seizure of a building of the SBU in Donetsk Region.

According to the SBU, Bezler likely is now in the seized police department in Gorlovka, and is moving about the city accompanied by armed guards."

Novaya Gazeta links to the web site of the SBU, where the ID of Bezler, who was born in Simferopol, is displayed along with a picture.