Murder of Pavel Dremov: Unofficial Version. View from Lugansk
Guest Article by Anna Dolgareva
Edited autotranslation by Quemado Institute
December 16, 2015
Introduction by Karl Pomeroy
Pavel Dremov, Novorossiya Armed Forces commander of the Cossack Battalion, was tragically murdered on Saturday, December 12, 2015 in the Lugansk People’s Republic. The incident occurred while he was being driven from Stakhanov to Pervomaisk, not far from the capital city of Lugansk. According to reports, a bomb had been previously planted in the vehicle. Head of the Cossack National Guard Nikolai Kozitsyn has said that the car in which the bomb was placed had been given to Dremov shortly before the tragedy.
Because of similarities between Dremov’s assassination and those of “Batman” Battalion Commander Alexander Bednov, Evgeny Ischenko—Mayor of Pervomaisk and Dremov’s right hand man, and “Ghost” Brigade Commander Alexey Mozgovoy, many Donbass observers have attributed these murders to operatives of Lugansk People’s Republic leader Igor Plotnitsky. There is some evidence for the claim. All four men were strong supporters of the Novorossiya vision, which had fallen out of favor with DPR/LPR leadership due to increasing commitment to the Minsk 2.0 Agreements. In addition, the four men were among those Novorossiya patriots who have called Plotnitsky, and to a lesser degree DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko, “traitors” for signing the Minsk documents, which ostensibly require DPR/LPR reunification with fascist-ruled Ukraine.
It is also a suspicious coincidence that the Dremov and Mozgovoy assassinations occurred in nearly the same place and in nearly the same way. To attribute this to Ukrainian saboteurs seems far fetched to some analysts. How many Kiev saboteurs are really hiding in the LPR? And how could they have possessed enough information to carry out the assassinations with such precision? These questions remain unanswered.
There is also a heartfelt and well-meaning motive for blaming the deaths on Plotnitsky. Many Donbass supporters feel a deep sense of disappointment over the abandonment of the Novorossiya vision, evident for example in the banning of the Novorossiya “chevron” symbol from militia uniforms. These people criticize the DPR/LPR leadership in an attempt to encourage a renewal of the commitment to independence for the Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts, which was declared by the DPR National Council in November 2014, and was also mandated by the May 11, 2014 referendum in which some 85 to 90% of the local population voted for secession from Ukraine. Such observers view the Minsk Agreements as a sell-out—a sacrifice of the freedom, dignity and self-determination of the region’s ancestral Russians.
On the face of it, the Minsk Agreements seem to be just that. This view, however, overlooks the fact that the Package of Measures grants the DPR/LPR full veto power over any constitutional revisions passed by the Ukraine parliament. This in principle allows the DPR/LPR to demand what Zakharchenko has called de facto independence. Whether such independence can be realized in practice is of course problematic.
Although blaming Plotnitsky for the assassinations may stem from honest motives, there remains the question of whether the allegations are true. If untrue, this rules out subversive schemes on the part of Igor Plotnisky, and creates a more optimistic picture for the Lugansk People’s Republic. Author Anna Dolgareva is of the opinion that Plotnitsky is likely innocent, at least in the case of Dremov’s murder.
The following is an edited autotranslation of Dolgareva’s commentary. Text that was unclear is left in its original form and marked “[sic]”. Readers who can suggest a better translation are welcome to comment.
Murder of Pavel Dremov: Unofficial Version. View from Lugansk
Guest Article by Anna Dolgareva
Dremov controlled the border. Dremov was an honest, strong, intelligent man. Illegal diversion and smuggling of coal fuel was made extremely difficult by the presence of Paul Dremov in Stakhanov….
On December 12, “Cossack Ataman” Pavell Dremov was killed. It so happened that I was the only journalist who was there at the scene. I was there by accident: I happened to be traveling on the same road where soldiers of the “ghost” [battalion] were located on the front. It turned out that the rear was more dangerous.
The route between Pervomaisk and Stakhanov, where Dremov died, is not too far from the front line: only a few kilometers. So in this case, the official version of the Ukrainian DRG [Diversionary Reconnaisance Groups] at first glance does not seem so implausible. At least, I personally believed it at first. But then I had a few doubts.
Let us dwell briefly on the chronology. So Paul Dremov got married. Two hours [sic] he was paged by the restaurant “Nika” in Stakhanov. Dremov in that hour [received a phone-] call, and without his normal protection, with one driver, went to Pervomaisk, 15 kilometers away. He passed the checkpoint located at the entrance of Pervomaisk, crossed the bridge over the River Luhanka, and there was an explosion. The car was blown into pieces. Dremov died on the spot, and the driver died on the way to the hospital.
Of course, there could not help but be different versions of the tragedy, including a version that the “order came from above.” For instance, Dremov disagreed with the leadership of the republic, and [Igor] Plotnitsky personally ordered him to be eliminated. Ukrainian “sofa warrior” Minstetsya [sic] even drew a piece of paper that allegedly contained the secret order to eliminate Cossack leaders by Plotnitsky. The photograph of the paper is badly battered, sufficent for complete accuracy only in specific places.
I, as one somewhat informed about what is happening in the country, am in serious doubt about this version. Yes, the conflict between Dremov and Plotnitksy existed. That was a long time ago. Since then, the situation had changed.
Pavel Dremov was not only a talented military leader, but also a very clever man. Realizing that the time of “wild militia” and disparate forces to deter the onslaught of the Ukrainian troops was past, he agreed to have his regiment join the People’s Militia of the LPR. Over the last year, his relationship with Igor Plotnitsky moved from the “Cold War” stage to a constructive partnership.
The Lugansk leadership had no reason to eliminate Dremov. Now it is winter, and Ukrainian fighters have pulled together their equipment to the front line. Everyone is talking about the possibility of fighting with great probability. And it was the Cossacks of Dremov that controlled a large portion of [the front] in the area of Stakhanov and Pervomaysk. In fact, the 6th motorized infantry regiment, named after Platov, is the main fighting force of this sector of the front. If the day after the death of Dremov, Ukrainian fighters would hit on May Day [sic], it would have stopped them already somewhere on the outskirts of Alchevsk. Recall that the LPR strictly complies with the terms of the Minsk agreements, and heavy weapons have been withdrawn from the border. [There would have been -tr?] a stand at the border of these very Cossacks with guns.
There are various ways to speculate about Igor Plotnitsky, but the man is very intelligent, and he does not plan to give the LPR to Ukraine. In any case, substitute the population of the country under attack Ukrainian troops – exactly [sic]. For Plotnitsky, Dremov’s death was a shock in the same way as for most of the Patriots of Novorossiya.
But the Ukrainian version of the DRG is questionable for several reasons. Firstly, why did Dremov change plans in the front of the restaurant, making his young wife and the guests wait [while he] rushed in [response] to a May Day [distress call]? Second, the explosive device was laid directly in the car. This is confirmed by the authorities of the republic and my personal observations: were the car blown to bits by a grenade launcher, there would not be so much damage, but on the “Bumblebee” [sic] there would have remained a distinctive mark.
And here again we recall that Pavel Dremov controlled the border. Across the border there are a lot of interesting goings on. Recall the recent scandal with Lyamina, LPR Minister of Fuel. Let us remember the mysterious rumor spread by the press about the Ukrainian businessmen, introduce into the economy of the Lugansk People’s Republic [sic]. These rumors are actually true. The LPR has a corrupt element left over from the previous system. Now the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of State Security undertook a thorough cleaning, but a lot had to be cleaned.
I remember Pavel Dremov very well. I remember how he fought any manifestations of lawlessness regarding the distribution of humanitarian aid in the territory entrusted to him. In fact, I have personally witnessed some of these episodes.
Dremov stood guard. Dremov controlled the border. Dremov was an honest, strong, intelligent man. Illegal diversion and the smuggling of coal fuel was made extremely difficult by the presence of Pavel Dremov in Stakhanov. And now Pavel Dremov died.
The incident is to be under the special control of the investigation of the People’s Republic of Lugansk: in particular, the Interior Minister Igor Cornet arrived on the scene almost immediately. And I want to believe that the murderers of Pavel Dremov will still be arrested.
PS. In preparing the article, information that Dremov’s murder was connected with the business interests of some people has been confirmed from unofficial sources. We look forward to the continuation of the investigation.