Arsen Pavlov

Arsen Pavlov
Nickname(s) "Motorola"
Born (1983-02-02)2 February 1983
Ukhta, Komi ASSR, Soviet Union[1]
Died 16 October 2016(2016-10-16) (aged 33)
Donetsk, Ukraine
Allegiance  Russia
 Donetsk People's Republic
Service/branch Russian Naval Infantry
United Armed Forces of Novorossiya
Years of service 2014–16
Rank Lieutenant colonel
Unit Sparta Battalion

Second Chechen War
War in Donbass

This name uses Eastern Slavic naming customs; the patronymic is Sergeyevich and the family name is Pavlov.

Arsen (Arseny) Sergeyevich Pavlov (Russian: Арсе́н Серге́евич Па́влов; 2 February 1983 – 16 October 2016), known by his nom de guerre Motorola (Моторо́ла), was a Russian citizen[2] who led the Sparta Battalion, an armed group fighting the Ukrainian army, in the ongoing War in Donbass.[3][4][5]

Early life

A Russian citizen,[2] Pavlov was born in Ukhta, Komi ASSR. He lived in Rostov-on-Don and spent some time in the Russian army.[6] According to a newspaper report by Georgian Journal he had serious problems with Rostov’s police while working there at a car wash, since he allegedly went on a drunken joyride in a car stolen from there.[7] Instead of going to prison he chose to go to fight in Donbass.

According to Pavlov, he got his nickname "Motorola" after working with Motorola-manufactured equipment while serving for four years as a wireman in the army.[7]

Activities in Ukraine

On 16 March 2014, he participated in protests in Kharkiv, Ukraine that called for Russia's intervention. He was caught on camera in video footage of the events by the city's internet news publisher.[8] Calling himself 'Motorola', he became the leader of the Sparta Battalion, a pro-Russian armed group fighting in the war in Donbass against the Ukrainian government.[3] He declared the region to be "Russian land".[6]

Pavlov led his battalion in both the Battle of Ilovaisk and the Second Battle of Donetsk Airport.[9] The government of Ukraine placed him on its wanted list for the creation of illegal paramilitary and military formations (Article 260, part 5).[10] In February 2015, the European Union added him to its list of sanctioned individuals.[11]

On 2 October 2014 Pavlov threatened to go to Poland after the plane of Russian defense minister was not allowed to fly over Polish airspace on 29 August 2014.[12]

On 24 June 2016, an assassination attempt was made on him in Donetsk after he left a traumatological center when a car bomb exploded.[13] A few cars were damaged in the area but no casualties or wounds were reported.[14] Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko condemned this attack, adding that "to do this in the territory of a hospital where women and children walk, this crime is beyond all measures."[15]

War crimes

I don’t give a fuck about what I am accused of, believe it or not. I shot 15 prisoners dead. I don’t give a fuck. No comment. I kill if I want to. I don’t if I don’t.

-allegedly Arsen Pavlov in an interview with Kyiv Post on 3 April 2015.[16]

In April 2015, the Kyiv Post released a recording in which Pavlov discussed killing fifteen Ukrainian prisoners of war.[17] UK based Amnesty International said it was a "chilling ‘confession’", which alongside other evidence, "highlights the urgent need for an independent investigation into this and all other allegations of abuses".[18] Motorola and his battalion are also accused of torturing captured Ukrainian soldiers. After Ukrainian soldier Ihor Branovytsky had been captured near Donetsk and was in custody of Pavlov's group, Pavlov is alleged to have deliberately killed the prisoner on 21 January 2015 with two headshots.[19]


He publicly married Yelena Kolenkina on 11 July 2014, in a wedding amid the war. The wedding was attended by Igor Girkin and Pavel Gubarev.[20] In a June 2014 interview to Russian newspaper Zavtra, Pavlov stated that they were already married and had a five-year-old son.[21] He and his bride were featured in a caricature by Donetsk artist Serhiy Zakharov,[22] who was subsequently held prisoner and tortured for several months by pro-Russian separatists.[23]He rented an apartment in Donetsk for 2,500 hryvnias per month and owned a Lada Niva that was gifted to him by Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky.[7]


Arsen Pavlov was killed on 16 October 2016 by an IED explosion in his apartment's elevator[24] in Donetsk. Pavlov's bodyguard was also killed in the blast.[25] Donetsk People's Republic officials claimed the IED explosion was activated from a distance by a Ukrainian neo-nazi group, the self-styled "Misanthropic Division". The leader of the group, however, denied any involvement in the asassination.[26][nb 1] Ukrainian officials also denied the allegations, stating that Arsen Pavlov was "lucky" to be killed so he would not have to face justice for his crimes, further suggesting the rebel leader was likely assassinated by Russia's special forces as part of a wider purge against the early leaders of the rebel movement, pointing to the fact that about half dozen rebel commanders have been assassinated.[28] DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko declared the killing a violation of the ceasefire and a "declaration of war" by Ukraine.[29] DPR authorities declared a three-day mourning commemorating "DPR hero, Colonel Arseny Pavlov".[30]

Following his death, the Ukrainian hacking group Cyber Junta disclosed information from Pavlov's phone, including personal photos and videos, legal documents, and correspondence. In the weeks leading up to his assassination, Pavlov expressed worry over a conflict with Russian officers, and believed he had become expendable. On 15 October, Pavlov instructed his wife to not trust Russian FSB agents.[31] Shaun Walker, the Moscow corespondent of The Guardian reported that Pavlov was extremely paranoid about his security, and that it is likely that such an attack would require aid from someone within his inner circle.[32]

The assassination of Arsen Pavlov follows a string of high profile deaths within the ranks of Ukraine's separatists, starting with the assassination of Alexander Bednov, the leader of the Batman Battalion and Aleksey Mozgovoy, the leader of the Prizrak Brigade in May 2015. Indeed the death of Arsen Pavlov comes within a month of the death of Yevgeny Zhilin, the founder of Oplot Battalion, which would later form into the Oplot Brigade.[33][34] Ukrainian officials have stated that Arsen Pavlov was assassinated by Russia's special forces as part of a drive to purge early separatist leaders that took part in the original insurgency of 2014, who may be charismatic but are often unpredictable. Moreover, most of the separatist leaders assassinated headed their own units, which would often engage in infighting over territory or control of the black market, suspecting that the assassinations are part of a drive to form a more uniform chain of command. Another theory behind the assassination has been that there is a drive to get rid of the first generation of rebels who were implicated in war crimes, therefore giving the separatist forces are a more acceptable public face. Indeed Amnesty International has called for an investigation into Arsen Pavlov executing 15 unarmed Ukrainian prisoners. Moreover, Arsen Pavlov's alleged war crimes have been one of the sticking points of the implementations of the Minsk II agreement, with Ukrainian authorities stating that he would not be granted amnesty.[35][36] Furthermore, Arsen Pavlov was not a Ukrainian citizen, being born and raised in Russia, and serving in the Russian military during the Chechen conflict. Thus, his involvement as the leader of a Ukrainian separatist movement was pointed to as an example of Russian interference in the conflict, the assassination may have been a ploy to replace Russian born separatist leaders with Ukrainian born ones, making the War in Donbass look more like an internal affair. Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko suggested the assassination could be used as cover for Russian separatists to carry out terrorist attacks within Ukraine.[28] Though Russia's involvement in his death have yet to be proven.


  1. An 17 October 2016 analysis by IHS Jane’s 360 noted “We have not seen any capabilities of Ukrainian guerrilla fighters embedded in Donetsk.”[27]


  1. COUNCIL DECISION (EU) 2015/238 - Official Journal of the European Union, 10 February 2015
  2. 1 2 "Bomb Kills Pro-Russian Rebel Commander in Eastern Ukraine". New York Times. 2016-10-18. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  3. 1 2 Tsvetkova, Maria (26 February 2015). "Ukrainian prisoners forced to hunt for dead comrades in airport rubble". Reuters.
  4. "'Declaration of war' in Ukraine as pro-Russian rebel commander Arseniy 'Motorola' Pavlov is assassinated in Donetsk lift bombing". The Telegraph. 2016-10-17. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  5. "Rebel leader in eastern Ukraine killed in bomb blast". UPI. 2016-10-17. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  6. 1 2 Tsulaia, Jambul (29 March 2015). "Real Talk With Russia's Fake Super Soldier". Georgian Journal. The Daily Beast.
  7. 1 2 3 Tsulaia, Jambul (19 March 2015). "Who is "Motorola," a Man Glorified by the Russian Media?". Georgian Journal. Georgian Journal.
  8. "To the Consulate of Russian Federation hooray, to the Polish - foo and pogrom on the Rymarska: Kharkiv separatists marched across the city". 17 March 2014. Archived from the original on 31 January 2015.
  9. Valmary, Simon (11 October 2014). "Rebel commander wages fight to the death for east Ukraine airport". Agence France-Presse. Yahoo News.
  10. "Arsen Pavlov". the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine portal.
  11. Jozwiak, Rikard (16 February 2015). "EU Expands Ukraine-Crisis Sanctions List". RFERL.
  12. Russian insurgent threatens Poland: 'Motorola' angered by Warsaw snub of Russian Defence Minister. Ukraine Today. 2 September 2014
  13. "'Assassination Attempt' on Separatist Leader in Ukraine's Donetsk – Reports". The Moscow Times. 24 June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  14. "Militant "hero" Motorola survives assassination attempt in Donetsk (video)". Ukraine Today. 24 June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  15. "Assassination attempt at DPR hero Arseniy Pavlov (Motorola)". Novorossia Today. 25 June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  16. Update: Russian Arseniy Pavlov, a.k.a. ‘Motorola,’ killed in Donetsk blast; Kremlin separatists blame Kyiv, Kyiv Post, 16 October 2016, retrieved 17 October 2016
  17. Sukhov, Oleg (6 April 2015). "Russian fighter's confession of killing prisoners might become evidence of war crimes (AUDIO)". Kyiv Post.
  18. "Eastern Ukraine conflict: Summary killings, misrecorded and misreported". Amnesty International. 20 October 2014.
  19. "Ukraine: Breaking Bodies: Torture and Summary Killings in Eastern Ukraine". Amnesty International. 22 May 2015.
  20. "A 'Separatist Wedding' in Donetsk". The Moscow Times.
  21. Tavernise, Sabrina; Sneider, Noah (13 July 2014). "For a Weekend, Ukraine Rebels Make Love, Not War". The New York Times.
  22. Vagner, Aleksandra; Bigg, Claire (16 August 2014). "Ukrainian Artist Still Missing After Lampooning Separatists". RFERL.
  23. Standish, Reid (21 October 2014). "The Banksy of Donetsk Documents His Torture". Foreign Policy.
  24. "Russian Arseniy Pavlov, a war crimes suspect known as 'Motorola,' reportedly killed". Kyiv Post. 16 October 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  25. "Donbas warlord Motorola killed in Donetsk". Euromaidan Press. 16 October 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  26. "Ukraine rebels accuse Kiev over death of commander 'Motorola'". BBC News. 17 October 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  28. 1 2 "Bomb Kills Pro-Russian Rebel Commander in Eastern Ukraine". New York Times.
  29. "Killing of DPR's Military Leader by Ukrainian Forces Is Declaration of War". Sputnik News. 16 October 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  30. DPR declares three-day mourning after militia commander murder, TASS news agency (17 October 2016)
  32. "Prominent rebel warlord Arseny 'Motorola' Pavlov dies in Donetsk blast". The Guardian.
  33. "Ukrainian separatist militant gunned down in elite Moscow restaurant". IBT.
  34. "Prominent rebel warlord Arseny 'Motorola' Pavlov dies in Donetsk blast". The Guardian.
  35. "Russian fighter 'admits killing 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war' as Amnesty International urges investigation into 'war crimes'". Independent.
  36. "'Declaration of war' in Ukraine as pro-Russian rebel commander Arseniy 'Motorola' Pavlov is assassinated in Donetsk lift bombing". The Telegraph.

External links

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