2 February 1983|
Ukhta, Komi ASSR, Soviet Union
16 October 2016 33) (aged|
Donetsk People's Republic
Russian Naval Infantry|
United Armed Forces of Novorossiya
|Years of service||2014–16|
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 who led the Sparta Battalion, an armed group fighting the Ukrainian army, in the ongoing War in Donbass.
A Russian citizen, Pavlov was born in Ukhta, Komi ASSR. He lived in Rostov-on-Don and spent some time in the Russian army. 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. 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.
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. 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. He declared the region to be "Russian land".
Pavlov led his battalion in both the Battle of Ilovaisk and the Second Battle of Donetsk Airport. The government of Ukraine placed him on its wanted list for the creation of illegal paramilitary and military formations (Article 260, part 5). In February 2015, the European Union added him to its list of sanctioned individuals.
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.
On 24 June 2016, an assassination attempt was made on him in Donetsk after he left a traumatological center when a car bomb exploded. A few cars were damaged in the area but no casualties or wounds were reported. 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."
In April 2015, the Kyiv Post released a recording in which Pavlov discussed killing fifteen Ukrainian prisoners of war. 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". 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.
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. In a June 2014 interview to Russian newspaper Zavtra, Pavlov stated that they were already married and had a five-year-old son. He and his bride were featured in a caricature by Donetsk artist Serhiy Zakharov, who was subsequently held prisoner and tortured for several months by pro-Russian separatists.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.
Arsen Pavlov was killed on 16 October 2016 by an IED explosion in his apartment's elevator in Donetsk. Pavlov's bodyguard was also killed in the blast. 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. 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. DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko declared the killing a violation of the ceasefire and a "declaration of war" by Ukraine. DPR authorities declared a three-day mourning commemorating "DPR hero, Colonel Arseny Pavlov".
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. Though Russia's involvement in his death have yet to be proven.
- An 17 October 2016 analysis by IHS Jane’s 360 noted “We have not seen any capabilities of Ukrainian guerrilla fighters embedded in Donetsk.”
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- Media related to Arsen Pavlov at Wikimedia Commons