The mystery of the Russian killer blown up in a lift
The assassination of a notorious Russian mercenary in eastern Ukraine is shrouded in mystery, said Le Parisien (Paris). Arseny “Motorola” Pavlov, commander of the “Sparta” battalion in the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” – one of the breakaway regions now receiving military backing from Russia – bragged in an interview last year of having personally executed Ukrainian prisoners of war. Ukraine’s government vowed to bring him to justice and the EU placed him on a sanctions list. But last week he was blown up by a bomb in the lift of his apartment block. Rebel leaders in Donetsk insisted it was a plot by Kiev – the aim being to spark a violent retaliation that would scupper the fragile Minsk peace agreement between Kiev and the breakaway republics. In reality this was just the latest of a spate of killings of separatist leaders over the past two years, killings widely attributed to quarrels among the rebels or a campaign directed by the Kremlin itself. Pavlov knew how to work Russia’s media for maximum publicity, said Yekaterina Sinelschikova in Russia Beyond The Headlines (Moscow). By strapping GoPro cameras on their helmets, he and his men produced some of the most infamous scenes from the war – which they gave to pro-Kremlin media outlets. He loved to boast of his brutality. Asked by a reporter about claims that he had killed in cold blood, he replied: “I shot 15 prisoners dead. I don’t give a damn. I kill if I want to.” Infighting among the rebels’ “masters” in Moscow could be behind this “dark, bloody drama”, said Jack Losh in The Washington Post. In Luhansk, the smaller of the two breakaway statelets, dozens of army commanders and top officials were rounded up in September in the wake of assassination attempts on Luhansk’s “president” and “prime minister”. The attacks were pinned on its former leader, Gennady Tsypkalov, who last year was ousted and arrested, and who last month was found dead in jail. His jailers claim he hanged himself, though it could be they who murdered him. Russian purges tend to be smooth and deadly, however, so these chaotic killings are more likely the result of a falling-out among mafia leaders vying to control lucrative smuggling channels. Tsypkalov was heavily involved in the black market for coal and gas; Pavlov traded scrap metal from the ruins of Donetsk’s airport, which his soldiers occupy. Back in Russia, Russian men have been fed an “elaborate myth” about the glory and riches that await them if they help their Ukrainian brothers in “fighting Nazis”, said Pavlo Kazarin in Ukraine Today (Kiev). “Anti-fascist prowess”, they are ceaselessly told by Moscow TV, can “raise a man from a beggar to a prince” and leave him “generously provided with wives and cash”. Who knows how many more nameless “Motorolas” have set out to kill Ukrainians in pursuit of fame and wealth? Perhaps Pavlov’s squalid death will now make them think twice.
Pavlov: “I kill if I want to”