The Russian mercenary, Arseny “Motorola” Pavlov was killed on October 16, 2016, by a bomb planted in the elevator of a Donetsk apartment building in which Motorola resided with his second family. Motorola may have arrived in Ukraine as a Russian “protest tourist,” and was filmed participating in pro-Russian demonstrations on March 16th, 2014 in Kharkov. Recently, Ukrainian security services have released an audio tape of top Kremlin advisor Sergei Glazyev (who was born in Zaporizhia, Ukrainian SSR), coordinating the pro-Russian protests in Ukraine. Motorola was a commander of the DNR’s Sparta Battalion; he first gained public fame for his wedding, and was known for his brutal training methods and cruelty towards his own fighters.
Motorola became infamous for his admissions of executing Ukrainian prisoners of war, which is recognized as a war crime by the Geneva Conventions. Pavlov’s admissions of war crimes, his criminality, his uncontrollability, and his prominent public profile led many observers of the war in Eastern Ukraine to believe that Russia’s intelligence services would assassinate him, just as they have assassinated or attempted to assassinate, many of DNR and LNR warlords of a similar profile. The most compelling reason for such an assassination is that Motorola was living proof of the Russian military’s war crimes in Ukraine.
According to analysis by IHS Jane’s 360, however, the blast may have indeed been orchestrated by Russian-backed forces, as Kiev suggests. Pavlov was a Russian-born fighter, the likes of who have been removed from leading positions they held in the Ukraine conflict, in favor of local militants.
It has also been argued that Ukrainian security services have a motive to assassinate Pavlov, to prevent him from executing more Ukrainian prisoners. However, there has been no evidence that Ukrainian security services have conducted any high-level assassination in the Russia-occupied area of the Donbas.
“I seriously doubt it was a Ukrainian group that killed Pavlov,” Alexander Kokcharov, analyst for IHS Jane’s 360 says. “We have not seen any capabilities of Ukrainian guerrilla fighters embedded in Donetsk.”
Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that the assassination of Motorola would necessarily stop the execution of Ukrainian POWs, because Russian and pro-Russian actors other than Motorola have been known to carry out torture and execution of Ukrainian POWs. It has also emerged that Russia/DNR have recently been kidnapping pro-Ukrainian Donbas civilians for the purpose of prisoner exchanges, ransom, and forced labor. The kidnappings of civilians, along with the relative lack of recent reports of recently captured Ukrainian military POWs, may suggest that the number of military POWs (the category of POWs most likely to be executed) in DNR captivity is relatively low.
A third hypothesis is that Motorola may have been assassinated by rival commanders or gang leaders. While this is possible, given Motorola’s prominent public profile, it is unlikely that any DNR/LNR warlords would have carried out such an effort without Russia’s approval.
Obozrevatel reports the following details, regarding hackers’ findings on Motorola’s assassination (the following is an unedited translation):
Activists of the cyberalliance of Ukrainian hacker groups, “CyberJunta,” FalconsFlame, RUH8, and Trinity found evidence that Russian terrorist Arseny Pavlov, nicknamed “Motorola”, was killed by Russian security agencies. This information is reported by InformNapalm, to whom the hackers gave the detailed archives, obtained from the gadgets of Pavlov and his spouse.
The hackers have also reported that they have access to, and fully control, the personal gadgets of other members of the Sparta battalion, and the entourage of Alexander Zakharchenko. As the evidence, they presented data from correspondence intercepted from Motorola and his wife’s Viber on the eve of the murder.
The Ukrainian passport of Motorola’s wife, Elena Aleksandrovna Pavlova
Arseny “Motorola” Pavlov’s Russian passport
A cursory analysis of the information indicates that in the last weeks before his death, Motorola was worried because of a conflict with [the DNR’s] Russian curators. He believed that he had become superfluous.
For this reason, he didn’t reside at home for a week (and only on the 5th of October did he take his child from the maternity clinic – Editor) – he would sleep in his office, probably fearing for his life.
In one of their last correspondences, Motorola’s spouse mentions that on the night of the 15 of October, their building’s guard was removed, after which, she became anxious. Pavlov instructed her not to trust the “older brothers” (the FSB – Editor).
Also, the hacker activists found out about a love triangle – on the eve of Motorola’s death, a blonde mistress appeared. On Motorola’s phone, photos of family documents and passports were found.
Social network profile of Motorola’s mistress
The mistress was found on social networks. She is Lugansk resident, Love Zakharova-Kustova (Любовь Захарова-Кустова).
The blonde’s social profile indicates an awareness of her mistress status, with which she was not quite content: “Always be the choice, the priority, the cause… but never become an option.”
One of the last photos from the social network profile of Zakharova-Kustova was against the background of a uniform with pixilation indicating Russian military camouflage. It’s possible that this is Pavlov’s uniform, or that of some other mercenary, or that of a Russian military officer.
It is noteworthy that on the eve of his death, Motorola has been involved in the suppression of the so-called “revolt” in “LNR”.
“Apparently, the trip to Lugansk was not in vain,” – said the InformNapalm team.
As reported by the Obozrevatel, Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the DNR, said that he regarded the killing of Motorola as a declaration of war by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. The words that supposedly “Ukraine has chosen the path of war”, were repeated by the leader of the LNR, Igor Plotnitsky. And in the morning on October 17, Zakharchenko said that already established the identity of those who ordered the assassination.