Donetsk Irregulars and Proxy Warfare

Brit student held as slave in Ukraine
Rebels seize him for speaking English
DON MACKAY and WILL STEWART in Moscow
Daily Mirror | August 6, 2014

A BRITISH medical student was held hostage for two weeks in Ukraine by pro-Russia rebels, it emerged last night.

Mohammed Gasim, 21, was reportedly treated as a slave by the armed thugs who captured him on a street for daring to speak English.

He was grabbed in the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk where he is studying.

Even after being freed, Mohammed was stranded in the war-torn country yesterday because he cannot get hold of his passport or identity papers.

A family friend said: "This has been a nightmare for him and his family. But now we know he is alive we are trying to get new documents for him so he can leave." The pal said British authorities can supply Mohammed, of Hounslow in West London, with the documents if he can prove who he is.

The friend added: "But all his belongings are in the university. He needs his student papers to prove he is British, but he can’t get there because the area is being bombed. He is stranded in a friend’s flat in Donetsk."

The pro-Moscow rebels, who reportedly forced Mohammed to dig ditches, had claimed online that he was dead.

A Donetsk University official said: "It was near a shop when a Russian man did not like it that our student spoke English. There was a fight, then the Donetsk People’s Republic took him."

Mohammed has spoken by phone to his frantic parents after his release.

 

In Ukraine, turning to a breakaway ‘professional’
Fixed on pro-Russia state, separatists draw aid from an earlier splinter region
ANDREW E. KRAMER
New York Times | August 5, 2014

DATELINE: DONETSK, Ukraine

Early in the separatist struggle for eastern Ukraine, a leading Russian nationalist, Aleksandr G. Dugin, painted a glowing portrait of what the newly captured territories, referred to in Russia as Novorossiya, would become.

The land will be ”a holy place for a renaissance of Russian culture, Russian spirit and Russian identity,” he told followers in Moscow. The residents will be ”absolutely different people – brave, clever and able to fight for their freedom.”

Today, that dream seems distant, as the Ukrainian Army closes in on Donetsk, the separatist capital, having claimed on Saturday to surround the city. Shelling by Ukrainian troops killed six people in Donetsk over the weekend and set fires in outlying districts, while the forces probed the city’s outer defenses. Shops and restaurants are closed, and the streets all but deserted. Yet the pro-Russia leadership is pressing ahead with a sweeping goal of establishing a lasting government here.

For that, they have turned to a cadre of bureaucrats who have made their way into Donetsk from Transnistria, a breakaway territory of Moldova that is another unrecognized, pro-Russia region. They are led by Vladimir Antyufeyev, who was a longtime security chief there, and who in July was appointed deputy prime minister of the main rebel group here, the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Until 2012, Mr. Antyufeyev led a security force in Transnistria called the M.G.B., which Western diplomats say was modeled on the K.G.B., the Soviet secret police agency. The force he is forming in Donetsk bears this name as well, which means the Ministry of State Security.

”It’s a clear sign of support for the insurgency in eastern Ukraine from at least certain circles in Moscow,” said William H. Hill, former head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Moldova, who knew Mr. Antyufeyev. ”It was extremely interesting to see that Moscow has fielded him again.”

Mr. Antyufeyev, 63, said that he came as a private citizen and a ”professional” in establishing both ordinary and secret police forces.

”I revive the law enforcement organs, the groups that maintain social order, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the state security,” he said, in order to form the bedrock of a new government.

”The people have a right to live on their land, to speak the language they want,” he said. ”Only a state can defend that right. We are building a government formed by the will of the people.”

Mr. Antyufeyev and assistants form a civil corollary to the military aid that Western governments say is flowing to the separatists from Russia.

Mr. Antyufeyev replaced a Donetsk native as domestic security chief last month in a shake-up that the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, said strengthened Russia’s direct control of the movement just a week before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, a fact likely to be contemplated in any future lawsuits over the downing that name the Russian government.

The United States and European governments accuse Russia of continuing to aid the separatists militarily even after the downing of the plane, which killed all 298 people on board. Russia and the insurgents deny this.

Some, but not all, of the roughly 40 former Transnistria officials have arrived already, Mr. Antyufeyev said in an interview on Thursday in his office in the People’s Republic headquarters, where a portrait of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, gazed down. Other experts are on their way.

The Russian government, he said, has no hand in this staffing, and he denied ever being a member of the Soviet or Russian intelligence forces. It is ”absurd,” he said, to assert that Russia has ”direct manual control” of the Ukrainian separatist leadership.

Mr. Antyufeyev lived for a decade in Transnistria under the assumed name Vadim Shvetsov, to avoid an Interpol arrest warrant accusing him of murder for his role in suppressing pro-independence demonstrations in Latvia in 1991. The deadline on that warrant under the statute of limitations has expired.

To avoid arrest, Mr. Antyufeyev and several dozen other Soviet police officials from the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia traveled to Transnistria and played a pivotal role in establishing the separatist state there.

Valery Litskai, a former foreign minister of the unrecognized Transnistria government, knew Mr. Antyufeyev when he established the M.G.B.

”He created very tight cooperation between the Russian F.S.B. and our M.G.B.,” Mr. Litskai said. ”The system was very well organized, far better than in Abkhazia and Ossetia,” where Mr. Antyufeyev also consulted on forming security forces. In Transnistria, Mr. Litskai said, ”he coordinated his work 90 percent with Moscow, and he never disguised it.”

Mr. Hill, the former O.S.C.E. chief, said Mr. Antyufeyev regularly met with the head of the Russian Federal Security Service, the successor to the K.G.B., when in Transnistria. ”People would claim to me that he was a line officer of the F.S.B.,” Mr. Hill said, though his Soviet-era police work was in the riot police force. Mr. Hill said Mr. Antyufeyev was also active in an arms-smuggling network linked to the Milosevics, Yugoslavia’s former first family.

Mr. Antyufeyev described his career in former Soviet hot spots as defending the rights of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians. Muddying a picture of clear Russian government support, in the 1990s he was arrested in Moscow on the Latvian warrant, though later released. Long before the ouster in February of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, which touched off the current crisis, Mr. Antyufeyev wrote a doctoral dissertation in 2003 that asserted the Russian government should support Russian-speaking groups in newly independent nations to retain its influence.

”If you push any living thing into a corner, even a little kitten, it will fight, and this is happening now to the Russians,” Mr. Antyufeyev said in the interview. ”For 20 years the West, and most of all the United States, while pretending to befriend Russia, did everything to keep it weak. Russia is being pushed into a corner.”

Mr. Antyufeyev’s prominence here was underscored last week when he was declared acting prime minister of his group, while its prime minister, a fellow Russian, Alexander Borodai, was away in Russia. The rebel military commander, Igor Girkin, known as Igor Strelkov, has said he served in the F.S.B. until last year.

Oleg Tsarev, a native Ukrainian, leads an umbrella legislature that aims to unite the two separatist regions, Luhansk and Donetsk, into a state called Novorossiya. Underpinning its legal scaffolding, it now has a draft constitution written, he said, by lawyers in Moscow who are not in the Russian government.

The Transnistria bureaucrats, he said, were needed because the revolution ”formed chaotically, and many good people made decisions on their own, so we needed to bring order.”

Aleksandr A. Karaman, a former vice president of Transnistria who joined Mr. Antyufeyev in Donetsk, said in an interview that the formation of a bureaucracy and state security police force proved critical in the early years of the separatist region in Moldova, and that the experience of the architects of this effort is invaluable now in Ukraine.

”The problems here and in Transnistria are one and the same, only we went through them earlier, and the Donetsk People’s Republic is going through them now,” he said. ”The problem is building a state.”

Mr. Antyufeyev said he was an expert in just this. ”All empires fall,” he said. ”Then, you will need us. We are helpers. We are the professionals. You cannot blame us, as you cannot blame a doctor for the patient he treats. Only we are not doctors, but lawyers and political scientists.”

 

Russian paper details split among rebel groups in Ukraine’s Luhansk

Text of report by Russian Gazeta.ru news website, on 23 July

[Report by Andrey Koshik: "Split around Strelkov. Luhansk militias lack coordination and one-man leadership"]

Luhansk – The lack of a single command is one of the main problems of the self-proclaimed Luhansk people’s republic [LNR]. Some militia members are subordinated to LNR leader Valeriy Bolotov, while others are building cooperation directly with Donetsk commander Ihor [Igor] Strelkov. Admittedly, there are also positives for the insurgents in this division: Various groups are moving behind the Ukrainian lines, inflicting great damage on their troops. Gazeta.Ru’s correspondent spent several days in besieged Luhansk.

To this day several independent entities are fighting in the Luhansk republic: In the city itself they comprise the Zarya battalion subordinate to LNR leader Valeriy Bolotov and the Leshiy special battalion that is building cooperation with Donetsk commander Ihor Strelkov, sidestepping Bolotov.

During a 20 July briefing Bolotov said that "there are individual disparate detachments that are attempting to dominate and somehow seize control of certain areas." "We are actively combating this at this time: It is impossible to fight a common enemy and have an enemy operating behind your own lines," the LNR leader said.

Although there is no longer open confrontation at the level of the commanders, because of a lack of coordination ordinary militia members periodically find themselves in conflict situations.

When Luhansk was being constantly bombarded by grenade launchers and Grad missiles on Sunday, 20 July, Gazeta.Ru’s correspondent witnessed how fighters from one of the attachments spotted men in camouflage gear on the roof of the 17-storey hospital, taking them for target aimers. They made their way there under fire, apprehended several individuals, and took them "to a basement" [for interrogation]: It transpired that they were fighters from another battalion who had decided to identify National Guard firing positions from the roof in order to launch an artillery counterstrike. It took a couple of hours to sort it out and they were released.

Discussing the incident, militia members admitted that prior to this they had repeatedly found themselves in a confused situation under fire from another detachment.

Some of them link the tense relations between the various detachments of separatists to the pre-war rivalry between Donetsk and Luhansk. A few years ago there was talk that the two regions might unite under Donetsk’s jurisdiction – such an arrangement naturally did not suit the local political and financial elites. It is clear that the current LNR leadership too is not prepared to transfer unlimited powers to Ihor Strelkov in a war situation. But many fighters see him specifically as the people’s leader.

Igor Orzhentsov (aka Vedun [meaning "Sorcerer"]), deputy commander of the Leshiy battalion, arrived in Luhansk with a friend from Moscow six weeks ago. "We were really up for this trip, realizing that, unless we stop this abomination, this scum that has come together from all over Europe, next year there will be a Maydan in Russia," the 42-year-old says. He describes how they ended up in the militia tent camp in front of the Luhansk Ukrainian Security Service building. They went into their first battle – to beat back a National Guard breakthrough in the vicinity of the villages of Metallist – wearing jeans and shirts and had trouble even acquiring a grenade each.

"There was absolutely no coordination – chaotic thinking, chaotic actions. The situation is now normalizing and we have one-man leadership, for which Strelkov was the catalyst," our interlocutor says categorically. "Anyone who does not accept Strelkov’s one-man leadership will be outlawed and disarmed."

Vedun feels that the National Guard can be defeated even without peacekeeping troops from Russia just as long as there is humanitarian aid, equipment, and media support. But he acknowledges that "right now we are losing the media war."

Talking about the locals, he tells the following story: "In one family they had a relative killed, and a healthy man of 30-something refused to join the militia but his wife joined up and disowned her husband."

The militia members say that two psychological types stand out among the Luhansk residents remaining in the city:

One set have immured themselves in basements, stay there even during relatively safe hours, and only come out to buy bread and use the bathroom. Others, who frequently get killed by mine fragments under fire from the Ukrainian army, go about their business during bombing raids. They are tense and wound up, but they go.

"It may indeed be true that unification has not been achieved, but during these months Luhansk has not been captured because various groups are going behind enemy lines and inflicting great damage on them," Ilya Manachenko, commander of a Cossack company, says. "Can you be confident that there are no traitors in our ranks? Consequently, if we joined forces joint plans would become known. Now we attack spontaneously."

The Cossack commander has no particular feelings about Strelkov specifically, but in the end he agrees nevertheless that it is only together that the militias can resist the National Guard.

"I talk to them all as it is necessary to coordinate all of our moves: I can ‘put people in place’ while Zarya carries out softening up with artillery," Manachenko says. In his words, not everybody acts like that; there are individual "princelings" with small detachments who operate exclusively independently. Incidentally, our interlocutor has himself fallen out with his wife and children because he has joined the militia: They did not support his standpoint.

It is noteworthy that many local fighters originating from Luhansk Oblast also feel cool about Strelkov, and some people have not even heard of him. At the same time, they feel cynical about "people’s governor" Bolotov. But they all agree that unification – very quickly, within the next few weeks – is vitally necessary: Without it is impossible to fight the regular army for long.

Source: Gazeta.ru website, Moscow, in Russian 0000 gmt 23 Jul 14

 

Expert says Russia may supply ballistic missiles to militants in east Ukraine

Text of report by private Ukrainian news agency UNIAN

Russia may soon supply ballistic missiles to terrorists in Donbass [parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions] in order to discredit [Ukrainian] antiterrorist operation forces, the coordinator of the Information Resistance group, military expert Dmytro Tymchuk, has said.

Tymchuk was speaking at a news conference [in Kiev] today.

"The situation with the Boeing [that crashed in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region on 17 July] did not affect the Kremlin’s stance. Putin sticks to the same policy that he started in April," he said.

"What concerns us most is that Russia is actively pushing an idea that Ukraine allegedly uses ballistic missiles, and we do not rule out the possibility that these systems, with Russian crews, can soon appear in Donbass in order to discredit Ukrainian troops," Tymchuk added.

For his part, military expert Yuriy Karin spoke about "well-planned information operations and carrying them out along with Russian propaganda, and coverage of rebels’ all military operations in the media".

In particular, he stressed that "if we take the issue of military hardware deliveries to Ukraine, several days before the appearance of T-64BV tanks on Ukrainian territory, we noticed a statement by [militant leader Igor] Girkin saying that the commander of the Artemivsk unit, where such tanks are stored, got several millions. Right after this statement, reports emerged in social media that tank experts are needed in Shakhtarsk [town in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region that remained under militants’ control until recently]".

"Then we saw three tanks entering Ukrainian territory, there was a demonstrative ride through the cities [under militants’ control], and then more than 30 tanks were deployed on Ukrainian territory," the military expert added.

"The same story is with aviation. A report that terrorists had received their own aircraft emerged several days before two of our aircraft were downed from Russian territory by Russian fighter jets," Karin noted.

He stressed that "there was the same story with Buk anti-aircraft systems. But Russian propaganda appeared to be against terrorists in this story, they said that Buk had been seized and that the so-called militia had received them [Buk anti-aircraft systems]. When the Boeing had been downed, Russian propaganda turned around and tried to put the blame on the Ukrainian army in just three hours".

Source: UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 1000 gmt 5 Aug 14

 

Several Ukrainians detained over ties with pro-Russian rebels

A representative of the radio frequencies centre has been detained in the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk Region, the news-based 5 Kanal television channel reported at 0500 gmt on 5 August, quoting the press centre of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

According to the report, the detained man, following an instruction from a Russian criminal, was monitoring the frequencies used by the Ukrainian troops and submitting this information to militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic.

The counterintelligence unit of the SBU has detained a local resident in the city of Artemivsk in Donetsk Region, who set up and coordinated a network of informers supplying pro-Russian militants with information on Ukrainian troops, Interfax-Ukraine reported at 0958 gmt on 4 August.

According to the SBU’s press centre, the detained person has been systematically supplying pro-Russian militants with information on the number of Ukrainian troops and the technical condition of Ukrainian military hardware. The SBU said that rebels had been using the information to prepare armed attacks on Ukrainian security forces.

Kiev police have identified the person who made hoax phone calls that bombs had been planted in the building of the presidential administration and in a Kiev hotel. The man, aged 31, is kept in custody in Kirovohrad for making similar calls before, the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported at 0808 gmt on the same day, quoting the public relations department of the Interior Ministry’s main directorate in Kiev.

Source: 5 Kanal TV, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0700 gmt 5 Aug 14; Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kiev, in Russian 0958 gmt 4 Aug 14; UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0808 gmt 4 Aug 14

 

Military expert says 12,000 rebels, Russian mercenaries fighting in east Ukraine

Text of report by private Ukrainian news agency UNIAN

Kiev, 5 August: Around 12,000 terrorists are acting in Donbass [parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions] and their number is increasing, the coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Dmytro Tymchuk, has told a briefing in Kiev.

"According to our estimates, around 12,000 terrorists are acting in Donbass," he said.

"We observe a tendency of this number increasing after we registered around 10,000 of them a month ago," Tymchuk added.

He also said that "we observe an increase in the number of mercenaries from among former Russian law enforcers. In our opinion, this means that their resources are running out since they used to recruit former retired special-purpose servicemen with combat experience. It looks like the number of Russians willing to fight is about to run out and they have started to expand their list of candidates".

Source: UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0849 gmt 5 Aug 14

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