‘Dear Friends, Acquaintances, Assholes, Bastards — You Should Be Very Afraid’
Russian commander dies in Ukraine bomb attack
by NORMA COSTELLO
In a solemn press conference in Donetsk, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, abandoned all political pleasantries.
“Dear friends, acquaintances, assholes, bastards — you should be very afraid,” he warned.
Dressed in military uniform Zakharchenko announced the death of his “friend,” Russian commander Arsen Pavlov — known by the nom de guerre “Motorola.” Because old Motorola phones never break.
Motorola was praised for banning alcohol and bringing discipline to DNR fighters. The 33-year-old commander of the Russian-funded — even though Moscow denies it — Sparta Battalion, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb near the elevator of his apartment on Oct. 16, 2016.
For many in Donbass, the blast is sure to have a dangerous ripple effect. Separatist fighters vowed to retaliate. Zakharchenko warned that his soldiers will “show no mercy.”
Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe agreed to end the fighting as far back as 2014, but clashes still occur daily in eastern Ukraine.
The commander’s death comes at a time of intensive fighting in the south of Donetsk city over the disputed “gray zone” in villages such as Novoazovsk.
The bombastic Motorola was a social-media darling. He posted videos and messages warning “fascists” that he was coming for them. According to a recording obtained by Kyiv Post, Motorola claimed to have killed 15 Ukrainian soldiers. “A chilling confession,” Amnesty International called it.
The military leader who is rumored to have fought in Syria and Chechnya and was seen as a hero by pro-Russian fighters after joining the second battle for Donetsk airport.
Moscow has withheld official recognition for the Donetsk People’s Republic, but the Kremlin quietly supports the regime. Rebel units such as Motorola’s Sparta Battalion receive weapons from Russia and Russian commanders routinely cross the border into the DPR — this despite a Ukrainian blockade.
Motorola was originally from Russia but claimed to be from the disputed city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine. Motorola vowed on social media to recapture Mariupol from Ukrainian forces. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Ukraine since the war began in 2014. Thousands people have been displaced.
A former member of Sparta told War Is Boring that Motorola fired men from his battalion for drinking and was a strict disciplinarian. His men loved him, all the same.
Separatists pledged to kill the “fascists” who bombed Motorola, adding the hashtag #novorossiya — a term Russian president Vladimir Putin used to describe pro-Russian territories in eastern and southern Ukraine — to their threats.
A group of pro-Ukrainian fighters that appears to have links to Ukraine’s far-right Right Sector posted a video on social media claiming responsibility for the attack, but this is unconfirmed. It appears more likely that the bomb attack was carried out by pro-Ukrainian fighters working covertly in Donetsk.
Security checks have increased throughout the city and across the front line in the town of Kramatorsk. Motorola’s death could herald an even bloodier turn in Europe’s forgotten conflict.