Ukraine rebels accuse Kiev over death of commander ‘Motorola’

Ukraine rebels accuse Kiev over death of commander ‘Motorola’

Motorola in ruins of Donetsk airport, 26 Feb 15Image copyright

Image caption

‘Motorola’ pictured in February 2015 in the ruins of Donetsk airport after heavy fighting

Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine are trying to find out who assassinated one of their commanders, considered a war criminal by Ukrainian authorities.

Russian-born Arsen Pavlov, nicknamed “Motorola”, was killed by a bomb blast in the lift of his apartment block on Sunday, in the city of Donetsk.

The rebels accused Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko of declaring war.

A video appeared online purportedly from a Ukrainian neo-Nazi group claiming it had killed Motorola.

But the claim from the mysterious “Misanthropic Division” has to be treated with great caution, the BBC’s Tom Burridge in Kiev says. Propaganda, often vicious and cynical, is a feature of the conflict, he says.

Little is known about the “division”. The clip was tweeted by Alexander Kots, a Russian war correspondent, and showed four masked men with guns.

Motorola commanded a rebel battalion called Sparta, which took part in major offensives against Ukrainian government forces at Donetsk airport and Ilovaisk.

Ukraine accused him of war crimes.

Image copyright
Twitter grab

Image caption

The clip allegedly from Ukrainian neo-Nazis was tweeted on Sunday evening

Born in Komi, northern Russia, in 1983, Motorola called himself a “volunteer”, the term used by the Kremlin for all Russians fighting in rebel ranks. Many of the rebel commanders are Russian citizens.

Last month President Poroshenko said Motorola had shot and killed a Ukrainian prisoner-of-war, Ihor Branovytsky, and said “the monster will answer” for that crime, the daily Ukrainskaya Pravda reported (in Russian).

In April last year Motorola told the Kiev Post that he had shot dead 15 Ukrainian soldiers captured by the rebels.

Commenting on the assassination, Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said: “As I understand it, Petro Poroshenko has violated the ceasefire and declared war on us.”

Russia backs the Donetsk insurgents.

The continuing use of heavy weapons along the front line in eastern Ukraine is undermining the fragile ceasefire.

Ukraine, Western leaders and Nato say there is clear evidence that Russia has supplied the rebels with heavy weapons and regular troops. Russia denies that, but it is hostile to the Kiev government and openly supports the rebel cause.

In the video, the “Misanthropic Division” warned that it would next target Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, the rebel leader in the neighbouring Luhansk region.

Ukraine rebels accuse Kiev over death of commander ‘Motorola’

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