Interfax-Ukraine | 23.07.2014
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has information that the Russian special services are planning to kill the leaders of militants as unwanted witnesses, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, Zorian Shkiriak, has said.
”Based on the information we have received, we can assume that the Kremlin is ready to ‘shoot’ some leaders of Russian terrorist groups operating in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine," he told Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday.
He said that first and foremost, the issue concerns FSB (Federal Security Service) and GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) officers, militants Igor Girkin-Strelkov ("Strelok"), Igor Bezler ("Bes") and one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, Valeriy Bolotov.
"The only one of the terrorist leaders who retains the possibility of returning to Russia is Borodai as the Kremlin’s personal political strategist," Shkiriak said.
The Interior Ministry said that after a "monstrous terrorist attack against the Malaysian Boeing over Torez" committed by Russian military air defense experts, together with Bezler’s militants, "these people have become unwanted carriers of impressive compromising evidence against the Russian president”.
Shkiriak said that Russian border guards had been ordered not to allow militants to enter Russia and kill them if they attempt to cross the border. He recalled that cases of such mass executions of separatists by defensive squads of the Russian border troops on the Ukrainian-Russian border had already been reported.
Three pro-Russia rebel leaders at the centre of suspicions over downed MH17
Igor Strelkov, Igor Bezler and Nikolai Kozitsyn reportedly discussed the shooting down of a plane soon after jet exploded
Alec Luhn in Moscow
The Guardian | Sunday 20 July 2014
As the world searches for answers over the Malaysia Airlines flight downed in eastern Ukraine, suspicion has fallen on the leaders of the pro-Russia rebels who have shot down three government planes in the past week.
Attention has centred on rebel leaders who reportedly discussed the downing of a plane shortly after MH17 exploded and crashed: Igor Strelkov, an alleged Russian intelligence agent leading the military forces of the self-declared "Donetsk People’s Republic", and Igor Bezler, a notorious loose cannon who rules the town of Horlivka with an iron fist. A third suspect is Nikolai Kozitsyn, commander of a group of Cossacks, the traditional military caste that once protected the borders of the Russian empire.
Shortly after the Boeing 777 went down with 298 people aboard, a Russian social networking page that has been uploading messages from Strelkov for weeks published a post saying rebels had shot down a plane outside Torez, near the location of the wreckage of MH17.
The post, which was later deleted, appeared to incorrectly identify the aircraft as an AN-26 military transport plane, lending credence to the theory that the rebels mistakenly downed the Malaysian airliner. "We warned you not to fly in our skies," it read. Rebel leaders later denied their forces had shot down the plane.
Strelkov (his real name is Girkin) is an avid historical battle re-enactor from Moscow and a former colonel in Russia’s Ffederal security service who recently admitted he was asked to lead the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, although he wouldn’t say by whom. He fought as a volunteer in Bosnia and in Transnistria, a Russian-backed breakaway republic in Moldova, and was seen advising separatist leaders in Crimea before the peninsula seceded from Ukraine and was annexed by Russia.
Strelkov is good friends with Alexander Borodai, the political analyst from Moscow who leads the government in Donetsk, and both previously worked for a company owned by nationalist oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who reportedly funded separatist activity in Crimea.
On Friday, Ukrainian authorities released recordings of what they said were intercepted phone conversations between rebel leaders. In the first, a voice claimed to be Bezler’s says a rebel group had shot down a plane and was investigating the crash site. In the second, a rebel commander reports that Cossacks shot down what was later discovered to be a "100% civilian aircraft" and that documents of an Indonesian student had been found.
Sound analysts and rebel leaders quoted on Russian television have argued the recordings were falsified by combining unrelated conversations, and a pro-Russian blogger claimed they were originally created before MH17 went down.
A final conversation allegedly records a rebel reporting to Kozytsin that "the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez … is a civilian one".
"That means they were carrying spies," the man alleged to be Kozitsyn responds. "They shouldn’t be flying. There is a war going on."
Bezler, a former funeral home director nicknamed Bes (Demon) and renowned for his ruthlessness, first emerged after angry pro-Russia protesters stormed the police station in Horlivka, during which he was seen in a video identifying himself as a "colonel in the Russian army".
In a later interview with Russian Forbes magazine, he said he was a Russian citizen from Crimea whose ancestor died in the Charge of the Light Brigade, commemorated by Alfred, Lord Tennyson during the Crimean war.
In Horlivka, he is known as a "cruel but effective" commander, and rumours hold he summarily executed four men accused of raping a girl, according to Ruslan, a local taxi driver. Bezler himself has filmed captured Ukrainian special agents with tape wrapped around their bloodied heads, and his men have been involved in many of the ugliest clashes with Ukrainian troops.
He is also known as a loose cannon liable to fight with the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic, which said it was considering placing him before a war crimes tribunal after he appeared in a video executing two Ukrainian officers by firing squad. (It was later admitted that the men were firing blanks.)
In June, Bezler’s men seized the regional police headquarters in downtown Donetsk, sparking an hours-long shootout with local rebel forces.
The final rebel commander under suspicion, Kozitsyn was born in the Donetsk region and took part in military actions in the Russian-backed separatist republics of Transnistria, and Abkhazia in Georgia, according to a Russian nationalist website. He reportedly received a medal from the Russian security services, the FSB, for engaging in talks with former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was later tried for war crimes.
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