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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: August 18, 2016

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kommersant Reports Names of Two Russian Soldiers Allegedly Killed in Crimean Border Clashes
Citing sources "close to the investigation," Kommersant has reported further information from a criminal case opened up in connection with the deaths of FSB officer Roman Kamenev and an Airborne Troops contractor soldier Semyon Sychev, thus revealing the names of the soldiers killed.

Leviy Bereg, a Ukrainian news site, had earlier reported the death of Sychev.
The two were allegedly killed by "Ukrainian saboteurs" in  firefights near the border of Russian-occupied Crimea and the Ukrainian mainland, but there are no suspects (translation by The Interpreter), says Kommersant:

It will be difficult to find those who mortally wounded the paratrooper -- they went into hiding on the territory of Ukraine. Meanwhile the criminal who shot the spetsnaz is among five fighters who were in a fleeting battle with his group. According to Kommersant's information, three of the attackers were detained, and another two were liquidated on the spot by subordinates of Lt. Kamenev, therefore his murderer may be either among the living or among the dead.

According to Kommersant's source, the first to detect the saboteurs was an officer of the Department of Escort for Operational Activities (OSOM) which reports both to the FSB's Special Assignment "V" Center (the Vympel special forces) and also the FSB for the Russian-created Republic of Crimea.

The OSOM got a tip that on August 6, Yevhen Panov and Andrei Zakhtey -- two suspects subsequently arrested -- were planning to meet and assist a group of Ukrainians near the border village of Suvorovo. Because they didn't obtain precise information about where the meeting was to take place, they divided the village up into three sectors and covered them with three squads, one of which was headed by department head Lt. Roman Kamenev, his deputy, and an agent from the department.

They headed out armed only with machine guns and pistols and wearing light clothing without bullet-proof vests "due to the nature of the assignment," says Kommersant, i.e. apparently not to attract attention. Kamenev himself, the head of the department, decided to coordinate the activities of his subordinates on site. He and his two agents went to the cemetery on the outskirts of town. Then at about 2:00 am, the group of armed Ukrainian suddenly appeared.

According to Kommersant's source, a problem emerged, due to the fact that during the day, borders troops and police patrol border regions and there was a danger that the FSB could confuse the attackers with its own people. 

So that's why Kamenev cried out, "Stop, the FSB's at work!" urging the armed men he saw to put down their arms and giving a command to his men to seize them. Thus, the FSB came out of cover, enabling one of the saboteurs to open fire.

Within a few seconds, says the source, the spetsnaz had "liquidated" two of the attackers, and disarmed the third. But their boss suffered a mortal wound in the fight. It's not clear which of the five shot at him, and the three detained are being interrogated and their clothing and skin samples are being checked for evidence of gunfire. Since the shooter would have heard the FSB identify itself when Kamenev cried out, the charges against him will be upgraded to murder of a law enforcer. 

Because the FSB couldn't tell how many saboteurs might still be roaming along and how many they had managed to disable, they organized a huge manhunt over the entire northern area of Crimea. That is how they found the second group of saboteurs at 11:00 pm, but no longer near Suvorovo but further to the east, near the administrative border of the mainland, in a swampy area on the shores of Lake Sivash. (This location is likely around here where it appears to be a camp.)

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Levee in Lake Sivash. Photo by Lena Fetisova
2016-08-18 15:22:17
At that location, soldiers from the 247th Paratroopers Storm Regiment based in Stavropol were assigned to protect the border, which crosses a high levee there. On the Ukrainian side, there is a narrow, swampy strip of lake shore overgrown with reeds, and that's where the paratroopers saw the saboteurs.

Over a walkie-talkie, the guard on duty summoned other soldiers from his regiment  who at that time were sleeping in tents at the foot of the levee, alongside their vehicles. Within seconds, they were roused for full combat; among them was Corporal Semyon Sychev, 22, a BMD mechanic and driver, who, according to Kommersant's source, performed the functions not of a driver but of one of the combat soldiers.

The paratroopers shouted at the people who appeared in the swamp, but they lunged back into the overgrowth of reeds and then opened fire with machine-guns. The paratroops managed to throw themselves to the ground, and their bullet-proof vests saved them. But Sychev was not so lucky. He had apparently either tried to get into a position to shoot at the saboteurs, or else tried to pursue them.

As a result, he tripped and rolled down the hill, at which point the saboteurs opened fire on him. Three bullets hit him: one of them broke the hand grip on his machine gun and didn't strike him; another one went over his shoulder. But the third, mortal shot got him in the neck above his bullet-proof vest, apparently because he was rolling down the hill. This pierced his lungs, creating a pneumothorax and dangerous internal bleeding. He managed to shout into his walkie-talkie what were his last words: "Commander, I think I'm wounded."

This version of the story is similar to the account in Leviy Bereg that mentions one bullet to the neck, although not as serious a wound, but differs from another leaked by the FSB that mentions only two shots, neither to the neck.

This time, all the saboteurs fled, so the murderer cannot be found. The soldiers didn't fire after the retreating Ukrainians because civilian dachas were right behind the strip of reeds, said Kommersant's source.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick