2016-10-17 18:49:00

Ukraine's pro-Russian rebels vow retaliation after commander dies in blast

(Vatican Radio) A leader of Russian backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has vowed to retaliate against Ukrainian government forces after a fellow commander died in rebel-controlled Donetsk in an apparent assassination. Arseny Pavlov, who once boasted about killing more than a dozen captured soldiers, died following a bomb attack, authorities said.  

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Pro-Russian separatists said Arseny Pavlov, a Russian citizen better known by his nickname Motorola, died of serious injuries after an improvised explosive device detonated as he entered the elevator of his apartment building in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in war-torn eastern Ukraine. A bodyguard reportedly also died in Sunday's blast.

The attack ended the life of a man who once boosted to have killed as many as 15 prisoners of war. He was the latest among several rebel figures known to have been killed recently amid reports of fighting among the seperatists. 

However Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who heads the separatist entity that calls itself the Donetsk People's Republic has blamed Ukraine's central authorities for the blast that killed Pavlov, who headed a fighting force called the Sparta battalion.

Zakharchenko said the killing amounted to a "declaration of war" by President Petro Poroshenko. He vowed to retaliate against members of Ukraine's military and security services, as well as their families. "All Ukrainian officers, lieutenant colonels, majors who operate on our territory, all your agents, families, are beyond the law as of now," he said during a press briefing. 


"Not only here but in Zhytomyr, [the capital] Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk," he added, listing cities that are under government control. 

"And I would add: when we come to your home, there will be no mercy towards you, believe me."

But Ukraine's Interior Ministry said Pavlov got what he deserved.

Pavlov, who was 33, was born in Russia's northern Komi Republic and was reported to have once lived in Rostov-on-Don, near the Ukrainian border. 

He was married with two children, who were reportedly inside the family's Donetsk apartment at the time of the blast. The marriage, celebrated with guns and roses in Donetsk, was reportedly his second and conducted without him having divorced his first wife. 

Hours after Pavlov's death was reported, an unverified video showing four masked, armed men taking credit for the killing was shared online by Russian media and separatist supporters.


Standing in front of a Ukrainian flag as well as one representing a neo-Nazi group with roots in Ukraine and Russia, one man vows to come also after leader Zakharchenko and Luhansk separatist leader Ihor Plotnitsky next, before the four men make a Nazi salute. 

Critics cautioned that the authenticity of the video could not be confirmed, and said Russian media have used faked footage in the past during the conflict. 

Yet the latest bloodshed has underscored the difficulties to reach peace in eastern Ukraine. 

The conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces has been raging in the region since April 2014, killing more than 9,600 people. 

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