The mys­tery of the Rus­sian killer blown up in a lift

The Week Middle East - - News -

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”

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