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The self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (DNR and LNR) celebrated the 70th anniversary of Victory Day in World War II with great pomp and St. George cross medals of uncertain provenance.
Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the prime minister and commander-in-chief of the DNR and Igor Plotnitsky, head of the LNR, were both photographed wearing Order of St. George cross medals usually only seen on people who actually served in World War II or subsequent Soviet and Russian wars.
This led a number of Ukrainian social media commentators and press to pronounce them as fake, although in theory they might have been awarded by Kremlin officials. What’s more likely is that the DNR/LNR themselves created new medals themselves as part of their state-like trappings. The Russian-backed separatists have held a number of ceremonies where they have awarded each other medals for bravery in fighting in battles in southeastern Ukraine.
Translation: Crimea: Screenshot Zakharchenko came to the parade in crosses. The leader of the separatist…
A video made of the DNR parade shows Zakharchenko swaying back and
forth on the tribune, prompting social media commenters to declare he
It’s also possible that Zakharchenko had difficulty standing due to a severe leg injury in battle which required more extended hospital treatment than he admitted at first.
Plotnitsky also appeared with St. George cross medals, Ikaso.ru reported.
Neither were known to have received such medals before the current conflict; Zakharchenko, born in Donetsk in 1976, is too young to have served in the Soviet army in Afghanistan and is not known to have fought in the Chechen or Georgian wars.
Aleksandr Zakharchenko ran the Oplot fight club in Donetsk before joining the Russian-backed militants and creating a battalion by the same name. Plotnitsky who was born in 1964 in either Lugansk or Kelmentsi, reportedly joined the Soviet Army in 1982 but it is not known where he served.
Ekho Moskvy ran a photo essay of the parade.
Arseny Pavlov, known as “Motorola”
Motorola is a Russian citizen born in 1983 in Ukhta, Komi who reportedly fought in the Second Chechen War, which began when he was 16 years ago. (1999-2009).
Mikhail Tolstykh, known by his call sign “Givi,” born in Ilovaisk in 1980, Ukraine appeared with his partner in the demolition of the Donetsk National Airport, Motorola. He reportedly served in the Ukrainian Army from 1998-2000. In this photo his medals are not so visible but below it can be seen he had a full chest of St. George crosses as well.
Podrobnosti.ua described them as follows (translation by The Interpreter):
Givi as usual was dressed in camouflage, whereas Motorola was in full parade dress: upon the uniform of an infantryman of Russia his chest was bedecked with medals which Pavlov pinned in arbitrary order. Among them were several medals “For Defense of Slavyansk”; a “Hero of DNR” medal; a medal for the annexation of the Crimea; several Soviet chest pins. The composition was crowned by white gloves on his head and a dagger in his belt.
Aside from the chevron of a lieutenant, Zakharchenko also had a chest full of medals: two rows of St. George crosses and a “Hero of DNR” star and white gloves. Constantly hanging around behind Zakharchenko was Denis Pushilin, a Russian political advisor and protoget of the Moscow oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev.
Segodnya.ru reported the parade as follows:
Up to two dozen units of various battle armor took part: six T-72 tanks, BTRs and BMDs, self-propelled anti-aircraft systems and self-propelled artillery systems, Grads, and howitzers. Despite the pouring rain, a fair number of people gathered who wanted to see the “Victory Parade.” The main street of Donetsk was closed off, as well as Chelyuskintsev Street — trams and trolleybuses were blocked. People hung on barriers, blocking each others’ views with umbrellas, which caused several minor conflicts to break out in the crowd.
The new armor visible in the parades appeared to have been brought in from Russia on convoys across the unguarded border in Lugansk Region.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Two American aid workers, members of the International Red Cross, have been freed after being detained for ten days by members of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic.’ BBC reports:
Pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine have freed two American aid workers seized 10 days ago.
Over 30 other staff members were detained whilst gunmen raided the office of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Donetsk.
The raid led to the IRC halting its aid work in Ukraine.
IRC President David Miliband said that aid workers “should never be targeted” and that the raid was an “affront to the IRC’s principles”.
In a statement the former UK foreign secretary said that the two men were healthy and in a safe location, before condemning their captors.
As we reported at the time, the Russian-backed separatists raided the IRC headquarters out of suspicion that the workers were engaged in “espionage.”