Ukraine Live Day 663: Russian-Backed Cossack Commander Dremov Killed in Car Explosion

December 12, 2015
Pavel Dremov, separatist Cossack battalion leader assassinated December 12, 2015, in a photo published November 2014 by Oliver Carroll

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Russian-Backed Cossack Commander Dremov Killed in Car Explosion; 4th Separatist Leader to Be Assassinated

Pavel Dremov, a  colourful Cossack figure fighting with the Russian-backed forces in the Donbass who once broke away from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” to form his own “Stakhanov People’s Republic,” was killed in a car bomb today, regional media reported. He had just celebrated his marriage.
Translation: Cossack commander Dremov died in the LNR [Lugansk People’s Republic] in an automobile explosion.

The pro-separatist news site Russkaya Vesnya (“Russian Spring”) at Rusvesna (translation by The Interpreter) reported on the assassination:

The well-known commander of the militia, commander of the Polatov Regiment, Cossack ataman Pavel Dremov, was killed near Stakhanov. A Russkaya Vesna special correspondent in the LNR [Lugansk People’s Republic] reported.

On December 11, Pavel Dremov married a resident of Saint Petersburg, and today was killed after wedding festivities at the Nika restaurant. The party continued into the second day. 

On the road from Pervomaysk to Stakhanov, his car was blown up near a gas station, the ataman’s driver was severely wounded and died without regaining consciousness.

Later the LNR Prosecutor General confirmed the information to Russkaya Vesna on the death of Pavel Dremov, the commander of the 6th Separate Motorized Polatov Cossack Regiment of the LNR People’s Militia

Dremov, whose call sign was “Batya” or “Dad,” was born November 22, 1976 in Stakhanov, a town in southeastern Ukraine currently under separatist control, and was educated in Odessa, reported. He returned to Stakhanov and later joined the Russian-backed separatist forces.

Bazov is a pro-Russian translator who has covered the separatists in Russian-occupied Crimea and southeastern Ukraine.

Dremov was the fourth separatist leader to be assassinated — and likely by his own side in the war, of which he was critical. 

The self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LNR) blamed Ukrainian forces for the murder, but Dremov had told journalists in the past that he feared for his life from other leaders he had crossed.

The correct link to the Independent is here.

In the Politico interview, Dremov was outspoken in his criticism of the LNR leadership:

“Those people forget where they came from. You saw Karyakin squirming earlier on at the rally? It was like watching a politician from Kiev. He couldn’t answer a question straight.”

A day earlier, the press people in Luhansk had been at pains to deny any rift with Stakhanov, claiming talk of a split was the work of pro-Ukrainian propaganda. Dremov made it clear, however, that all was not well. “Do you want to know why I don’t like the Luhansk Republic? It’s because they have got used to doing nothing, to giving nothing,” he said. 

Greed and “seats of power” were the only reason they had signed the ceasefire deal. Why else would they agree to such a soft deal, he argued—at a time that Ukrainian forces were in panicky retreat?

There are few absolutes in eastern Ukraine today, and it would be wrong to suggest other separatist leaders do not share a desire to expand territories beyond current borders. But the deal on a “ceasefire”—which in reality exists only in areas sufficiently removed from strategic front lines—does seem to have divided the separatists. One camp, supporting the deal, consists of relatively more disciplined and Moscow-dependent forces, and prioritizes rebuilding before any further military moves. The second camp, relatively more belligerent and independent, advocates immediate military advance, complains about the other side being money-obsessed, and freely talks about the Ukrainian conflict being a prelude to World War III.

Last September after the conclusions of the Minsk agreement for a ceasefire, the LNR leadership rounded up all the volunteer brigades and eventually put them under pressure to join a unified army; Stakhanov  had ultimately complied.

Dremov is the 4th separatist leader to have been killed in assassinations in the last year.

Aleksei Mozgovoy, commander of the Prizrak (Ghost) Battalion, was ambushed and killed in May.
Aleksei Bednov, whose call sign was “Batman” who was the commander of the Batman Battalion, was ambushed and killed earlier in January.

Yevgeny Ishchenko, mayor of Pervomaisk, was killed in January as well. According to various conspiracy theories, Plotnitsky had ordered Ischenko, a close associate of Dremov’s, to be assassinated.

A Russian-language video with English subtitles expounding on the conspiracy shows Plotnitsky, declared a “Jewish oligarch” by the makers of the video, stating that he had himself appointed Ishchenko, and that he was killed by “a Ukrainian diversionary group,” which he protested because Ishchenko was a civilian serving as mayor.

The video shows Ishchenko making an impassioned denunciation of Plotnitsky and other LNR leaders for making a deal with Ukraine in the Minsk peace talks, as he points to a home ruined by shelling claimed to be from Ukrainian forces. Ishchenko was killed near the front, as we reported.

A common belief about the Russian-backed separatist leaders is that Moscow intelligence agents are behind their assassinations, killing them after deployment as they are no longer needed, given the Minsk talks. But in fact, the leaders of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) such as Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) and Aleksandr Borodoy have mainly survived and returned to Russia. Those commanders who have been confirmed as assassinated were native to Ukraine and in conflict with the LNR leaders.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick