Ukraine Live Day 460: Russian-Backed Separatist Leader Confirmed Assassinated

May 23, 2015
Aleksei Mozgovoy

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga Ends in Failure to Unite Due to Russian Pressure

The summit of the Eastern Partnership which took place in Riga ended with division among the participants who were unable to come to an agreed position about Russia’s forcible annexation of the Crimea.

As RFE/RL reported, blocked use of the term “illegal annexation” regarding Crimea, and a compromise statement was devised:

Disagreement over the wording on Crimea erupted on May 21 when
Armenia and Belarus tried to block text that referred to Russia’s
annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 as “illegal.”
Armenia and Belarus have close ties to Moscow and are members of the
Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.

That dispute was later resolved in a way that enabled Armenia and
Belarus to avoid using the term “illegal.” Point 4 of the final
declaration states that the “EU” — not all of the summit participants
— “reaffirms its position against the illegal annexation” of Crimea.

There was also disagreement about the language regarding the “frozen conflict” of Nagorno-Karabakh, necessitating last-minute phone calls to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

European Council President Donald Tusk, past prime minister of Poland, tried to smooth things over:

“This message about our continued, consistent, and strong commitment to
the Eastern Partnership and each of our partner countries is the main
message of this summit, and it’s a necessary message in light of the
last year’s turmoil, aggression, intimidation, and even war in this part
of Europe,” he said.

But the fault lines were visible.

The New York Times reports:

Prime Minister David Cameron
of Britain showed up hours late, but the absentee who really mattered —
and haunted all discussion during a two-day meeting of leaders from
Europe and former Soviet lands — was President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who had not even been invited.

The gathering in Riga, the capital of Latvia, a former Soviet republic now deeply entrenched in both the European Union and NATO, was originally billed as a chance to give new impetus to the European bloc’s so-called Eastern Partnership, a six-year-old push into six former Soviet territories that Moscow still views as being in its own sphere of influence.

Mr. Putin has put so much pressure on Ukraine and the five other
countries to back away from any shift toward the West that the European Union on Friday declared its Riga meeting a success simply because leaders had managed to stand still.

23SUMMIT-master675.jpgJean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, center left, greeted President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine. Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis/Associated Press

As Paul Goble wrote in our syndicated Windows on Eurasia today, No ‘Frozen Conflicts Will Be Resolved While Russia Has Veto In UN Security Council

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the former president of Latvia, points to an
inconvenient truth that few want to recognize: no frozen conflicts in
the former Soviet space will be resolved as long as Russia retains its
veto in the UN Security Council and thus is in a position to block moves
toward a resolution.

Speaking on the sidelines of the EU Eastern Partnership in Riga yesterday, the Latvian leader said
that despite the existence of the OSCE Minsk Group “there has been no
progress” on a resolution of the Karabakh conflict between Armenia and
Azerbaijan because Moscow doesn’t want any progress.

“The conflict in Transdniestria also is frozen but there is no
progress in its resolution. Georgia has lost its lands. Ukraine has been
subjected to military occupation, [and] international law is incapable
of resolving these issues,” she says. As long as Russia has a veto in
the UN Security Council, “one should not expect resolutions from this

One positive outcome of the summit, as Deutsche Welle Russian service reported was that the participants agreed to develop the “strategic infrastructure” to circumvent dependence on Russia for gas, and highlighted the special role that Azerbaijan and Georgia had in this effort. They noted in particular:

the  South Caucasus Pipeline, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline and the TransAdriatic Pipeline, the inauguration of the Iasi-Ungheni gas interconnector, and the preliminary work on Isaccea-Vulcanesti electricity interconnection between Romania and the Republic of Moldova

There were two sets of demonstrators outside the conference: RFE/RL reported pro-EU demonstrators waving Ukrainian and Georgian flags calling on officials to liberalize the EU’s visa regime for Ukrainians and Georgians, and The New York Times reported a handful of Russians in Riga with signs blaming the EU for war and division of Europe.

The Eastern Partnership is an initiative of the European Union governing its
relationship with the post-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, intended to provide a venue for
discussions of trade, economic strategy, travel agreements, and other
issues between the EU

The last meeting in 2013 preceded months of pro-European protests in Kiev which ended in the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, followed by Russia’s seizure of Crimea and instigation of war in the Donbass.

At the Riga summit, the European Commission signed an agreement for a $2 billion loan to Ukraine agreed on in January.

But both Ukraine and George were disappointed that they failed to obtain a visa-free regime with the EU. As the Institute of World Policy reported, there were too many obstacles still to membership.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Video from Murder Scene of Mozgovoy and Guards

A channel called “Russiannews” has uploaded a video reported to be from the scene of the murder of Prizrak Commander Aleksei Mozgovoy. The meta data shows that it is a copy of the video published by Russian Defense Ministry TV Zvezda

This video is graphic and has more detail than the LifeNews video we previously reported. The video is labeled as having come from an “Unregistered Hypercam” but has been given to TV Zvezda.

As the pro-Russian blogger Colonel Cassad reported today, pro-separatist reporter Graham Philips, who works for TV Zvezda, is back in Ukraine, although he was expelled by Ukrainian authorities and ordered not to return.

In this photo, he is said to be in Krasnodon.


Translation: Today I stopped to make several photos on the highway. I was driving and the highway was closed – Mozgovoy was just killed. I shot what I could on a GoPro.

It is not known if Philips is the one who shot the footage published by TV Zvezda.

Translation: I left my bullet-proof vest and helmet back in Donetsk. I have a new [rubber? reason?] The day was at first positive then difficult. It is a pity about Mozgovoy. They said there is a saboteur there.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Further on Assassination of Mozgovoy; 3 Killed, 3 Wounded Also; Supporters Speculate LNR Killed Him

Sergei Gorenko, deputy prosecutor of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” gave a press conference on what is known about the assassination of Aleksei Mozgovoy, which also killed or wounded 6 other persons traveling with him.

Gorenko said Mozgovoy, his bodyguards, and a press secretary were traveling in three cars when they were shot at by machine guns.

He said that Ukrainian diversionary and reconnaissance groups (DRGs) were more active recently and speculated that they were the culprit behind the assassination of Mozgovoy and his party but stressed that the investigation was ongoing.

He said that the “people’s militia,” the prosecutor’s office and security ministry were at the scene and investigating the multiple murders.

Another LNR official also said “the enemy has intensified his work” lately and said recently there had been shots at the Agricultural Institute.

Last March, Mozgovoy was also in an attack near the same location where he was killed today, where also Ukrainians were presumed to take aim at him.

The pro-separatist blogger Colonel Cassad had the following report from a fighter from the Prizrak brigade whose call-sign is “Dobry” [Kind] provided further details:

“Yes, at first a mine exploded, then they were shot at from four positions. Mozgovoy had no chances of surviving in that attack. There were at least four fighters in the ambush.”


LifeNews had further information from their correspondent Yevgeniya Zmanovskaya who was at the scene.

She said the cars were heavily damaged and struck by machine-guns. She said four people in one car were all murdered, including Mozgovoy, and 3 in another car were wounded. She reiterated speculation that the attack was made by a Ukrainian diversionary and reconnaisance (DRG) group.

But the pro-separatist blogger Colonel Cassad said that it was also
possible that Mozgovoy had been killed by rivals in the LNR because he had refused to subordinate to leader Igor Plotnitsky (translation
by The Interpreter):

Regarding who could have offed them, I don’t particularly believe
that the junta’s DRG [was responsible] in this case. If in the case of
Bednov’s murder it was clear that his own people offed him. If in the
case of the murder of Ishchenko there were and remain questions of who
killed him, since, still and all, the front was right nearby, then in
the case with Mozgovy, the DRG would have gone quite far, and the junta
could hae already claimed “a successful operation,” at any rate, as
some  ‘partisans” took responsible in March for the assassination
attempt on Mozgovoy.

Colonel Cassad also cited a representative of the Prizrak Brigade:

“This took place at approximately the same place where
there was an assassination attempt on Mozgovoy on March 7. On the
highway betwee Lugansk and the city of Alchevsk, where his brigade was
based, an ambush was organized, unknown persons shot at the jeep in which
Mozgovoy was traveling with his security detail. Mozgovoy suffered
serious wounds and died on the spot, those accompanying him were also
wounded, their status is being confirmed.”

Plotnitsky himself issued a statement:

“The attack on Aleksei Mozgovoy and his comrades was an attack on all of us, on the people who defend the right of the LNR to exist. I am grieving along with all those who knew Aleksei Borisovich Mozgovoy, and who went arm and arm with him.

There could be differences in views with Mozgovoy on political processes, but in the battle for the Lugansk People’s Republic, we stood shoulder to shoulder.”

He said that Mozgovoy’s death was only to the advantage of the Kiev government and claimed Ukraine was trying to destabilize the Donbass during the Minsk talks.

The LNR prosecutor said that the information so far was that six
other people were killed along with Mozgovoy and not wounded, but this
was being verified.

Colonel Cassad also noted that Mozgovoy’s press secretary was the woman on the right in this picture. Only her first name, Anna, was given.


Yegor Kholmogorov, editor-in-chief of Russkiy Obozrevatel’, an ultranationalist Russian supporting the separatist movement in Ukraine had this statement, reprinted by Colonel Cassad:

Prizrak Brigade Commander Aleksei Mozgovoy was murdered near Lugansk.

Now it is very frightening.


Mozgovoy was always an open and honest person. He could not be
accused of weaving intrigues, preparing coups and something like that.

He simply fought for his cause and his people. Alchevsk was the
last place where the RIGHT Novorossiya was still alive. And now it’s
been killed.

We have all been orphaned.

And we are all scoundrels that we could not prevent this.

It’s a very black, terrifying and shameful day.

Eternal memory and the Kingdom of Heaven to a real man.

Another pro-separatist blogger, Maksim Ravreba, wrote on VKontakte:


All the hawks at this stage are being sent into the basement or liquidated.

This is a severe point of the peace plan. It is already happening.

It’s another matter that the Ukrops [pejorative name for Ukrainians] do not have such power on their own territory. And if that is the case, then at the next stage there will be a new military elite.

On the threshold of the 21st century, everything happens faster.

But the purges are the same as under Stalin. If I have seen everything correctly.

I was thinking about Aleksei for the last few days. I don’t understand how he was alive until now. He could not survive, he was unable to pretend, living in the old way, not changing. Because if you ant to get somewhere, you have to RUN TWICE AS FAST than if you want to stay in the same place.

Eternal memory to the hero of Novorossiya!

And I would not be depressed in your place. We must go further. We must win.

Aleksandr Krot of the Volunteer Communist Detachment discounted these rumors in a post on VKontakte:

Regarding the rumors about the disarmament of Prizrak — well, personally no one is disarming our location, it’s also quiet at headquarters, reports of disarmament of any of our guys have not been received.

Aleksandr Kot, a war correspondent for the pro-Kremlin Komsomolsakay Pravda, said he believed that Ukrainian troops murdered Mozgovoy  “during a period of such fragile peace, to sew enmity among various divisions of the militia in the Donbass.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
LNR Prosecutor Confirms Killing of Prizrak (Ghost) Commander Mozgovoy

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” has confirmed the killing of Prizrak Brigade Commander Aleksei Mozgovoy, reported.

As we reported earlier, LifeNews, a pro-Kremlin TV station close to Russian intelligence and law-enforcement, was first to report the assassination.

The Lugansk Information Center, citing Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Gorenko, made the report, saying six others traveling with Mozgovoy were also likely killed in the attack. His title in the report was given “commander of the 4th Territorial Defense Battalion,” which was the centralized LNR army which his brigade was forced to join in April.

“At the present time it is known about the deaths of seven persons, but this is not exact. The identities of those killed are being established.”

There has been speculation about whether he was killed by Ukrainian forces, as Russian-backed separatists have claimed, or by LNR forces, whom he defied, as was believed to be the case with the assassination in January of Aleksandr Bednov, known by his call-sign “Batman,” also commander of a battalion. reported, citing Russian Defense Ministry TV Zvezda, that President Petro Poroshenko issued awards for valor in combat today right after Mozgovoy’s assassination, which strengthened the belief that Ukrainian forces were behind the attack.

Yet the decree announced on the presidential website was for 264 Ukrainian soldiers, of whom 228 “had died in battle for the independence of the Donbass” and was likely in preparation before today’s assassination.

For background on Mozgovoy including his last public appearance and speech and links to his last interviews, go here.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Background on Prizrak Commander Mozgovoy – Last Public Appearance and Speech, Last Media Interview

Aleksei Mozgovoy, commander of the Prizrak (Ghost) Brigade reported assassinated today, has featured prominently in our reports in the past year as one of the most colorful Russian-backed separatist leaders.

Mozgovoy gained fame as a hold-out against the efforts of the leadership of the “Lugansk People’s Republic”  to incorporate independent fighters’ gropus into a consolidated LNR army.  While reportedly his brigade was incorporated into the LNR’s 4th Territorial Defense Battalion, he continued to use the insignia of his brigade.

On Victory Day May 9th, Mozgovoy was featured in a video made of the military parade
which was uploaded to YouTube on his channel and showed the flag of his
battalion — Prizrak MBR Novorossii [Ghost Separate Mechanized
Reconnaissance Brigade ]. If it is true that “Novorossiya is dead” — or least some would like to kill it off — this may be one of its last uses among fighters.

“Glory to Novorossiya!” he shouted at 6:19. At 6:28 he gave a speech (translation by The Interpreter):

I would like to state the following. We have stood guard for a free people of free interests honestly and decently. And we will go on standing. Don’t fear anyone, and listen to anyone. We can defend you. We can defend all our achievements, including the Victory of 70 years. With that, we will go forward.

Some in the crowd then took up the chant “For Novorossiya!”.

Translation: 09.05.15 Video from Aleksei Mozgovoy. // “Despite all the threats and slip-ups the solemn procession in Alchevsk…

Translation: Prizraki (Ghosts) of Aleksei Mozgovoy built a children’s playground in Alchevsk on Victory Day.

British reporter Ollie Carroll, now covering the war in Lugansk, interviewed Mozgovoy last week.

In April, we featured two accounts of people held by Mozgovoy’s fighters and mistreated.

The first was about volunteers from Russia who went to fight with
the separatists and came back underwhelmed by the experience,  Russian Volunteer Fighters from the Urals Return Home from the LNR,

The second was about Russian businessman Bondo Dorovskikh,  Russian Who Went to Fight in Donbass Says He was ‘Not in an Army but in a Criminal Band’

The full account of this captive’s experience is here: Life Among the Thugs.

In both these stories, the fighters were sent to the Prizrak (Ghost)
Brigade run by Aleksei Mozgovoy, a native of Svatove District in
Lugansk Region who has been reluctant to join the other forces in the
self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s
Republic.” According to the pro-Russian blogger Colonel Cassad,
despite Mozgovoy’s resistance to subordination to the other leaders, on
April 2 his unit was said to be incorporated into the 4th Territorial Defense Battalion of the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LNR). It’s not clear how that’s going.

In a context where very few of these stories of returning
soldiers have been leaked — the volunteers and their families can suffer
reprisals — it’s interesting that we now have several. This could be
merely due to the fact that the gap between the propaganda on state TV
and the reality of the war has grown so shocking that fighters become
determined to speak out — as Dorovsikh explains to Svoboda.

Or it may be in this case that some forces within the LNR want to
discredit Mozgovoy by showing he treats his fighters poorly and that
they are even involved in theft and abuses against local people.  Such
offenses the LNR has ruthlessly suppressed in its own dungeons or by extrajudicial execution, as occurred last year with the battalion leader Aleksandr Bednov,
known as “Batman.” It might also be possible that Moscow is looking for
ways to wind down the involvement of such volunteers, and may want to
let it be known that conditions are poor and the local population
hostile to incoming Russians – although that seems unlikely, as the
Russian-backed fighters continue to bear down on Shirokino and other
pressure points along the front line without ceasing.

LifeNews Reports Russian-Backed Separatist Commander Mozgovoy Has Been Assassinated

LifeNews reports that Aleksei Mozgovoy, commander of the Prizrak (Ghost) Division of the Russian-backed separatist fighters, has been assassinated.

As a number of attempts have been made on the life of Mozgovoy in recent months, we are verifying the information. LifeNews appears to be using unknown separatist sources, but separatist news sites like DNR24 have the story from LifeNews.

Mozgovoy was said to be traveling in a jeep near Mikhailovka in Lugansk Region with his press secretary and two or three bodyguards and was killed when the vehicle came under shell fire. Separatist sources are blaming a Ukrainian sabotage group for the attack, in which firearms and machine guns were reportedly used.

Mozgovoy has been a maverick separatist leader who refused to subordinate to orders to consolidate his independent battalion into the unified forces of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic”. Earlier, an attack was made on him March 7 at the approach to a checkpoint near the entrance of Mikhailovka. In that attack, in which three explosives were involved, he had suffered light shrapnel wounds but his car was severely damaged.

Mozgovoy’s car had come under fire in February in Lisichansk as well.