Donetsk ‘PM’ promises to avenge killing

Donetsk ‘PM’ promises to avenge killing

The damaged control tower at Donetsk airport in late December 2014. It has since been destroyed. Source: Wikimedia

A leading Russian separatist was assassinated in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, his troops reported, accusing Kiev’s forces of murdering him to bust the fragile ceasefire.

Arseny Pavlov, a Russian known as “Motorola”, died in an explosion in a lift at his apartment building in Donetsk with his bodyguard, according to Eduard Basurin, deputy defence minister in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.

Donetsk is the largest city in the Ukrainian region of Donbass, which pro-Russian militants occupied in 2014 and where daily fighting and shellings expose the fragility of last year’s ceasefire.

“The bomb was placed above the lift’s cabin. The blast was concentrated inside the cabin,” Basurin was quoted saying by Reuters. “We had intelligence from our agent networks that diversionary groups were being sent our way to kill prominent military and political leaders.”

Four armed masked men claimed responsibility for the killing online, beside a pro-Ukrainian, neo-Nazi group. In the video they said Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, and Alexander Zakharchenko, Donetsk’s “prime minister”, would be the next target.

The four men made a Nazi salute. The authenticity of the video could not be confirmed. The Russian media has used faked footage in the past to discredit the Ukrainian forces.

Zakharchenko promised revenge.

He said the killing amounted to a “declaration of war” by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and vowed to retaliate against the Ukraine’s military and their families.

“All officers, lieutenant colonels, majors who operate on our territory, all your agents, families, are beyond the law as of now. Not only here but in Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk,” Zakharchenko the Donetsk media, listing cities under government control. “And I would add: when we come to your home, there will be no mercy towards you, believe me.”

Pavlov, 33, was born in Russia and commanded the “Sparta” battalion which fought Ukrainian forces in the key struggle for Donetsk’s airport.

The diminutive figure was a hate figure for many in Ukraine.

The Kyiv Post last year quoted him saying he had murdered 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war.

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