Kyiv, August 20, 2015. On November 4, 2014, a plebiscite to elect a leader of the self-declared “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) took place. It was seen as a joke or farce in Kyiv, but in Luhansk the event was of high importance because of the chaos prevailing in the region, said Pierre Sautreuil, French journalist of the news outlet Nouvel Observateur, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis media Center. The journalist has been covering developments in the “LPR” since October 2014, and has lived in the region for around three months.
“There is a huge difference between the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and the “LPR.” A clear vertical of power has been established in the “DPR” from the very beginning and Aleksandr Zakharchenko was an undisputable leader. It was only Igor Bezler, separatist leader in control of Horlivka who was a threat to his absolute leadership. But Bezler was pushed out of the way on November 1, 2014, right before I arrived,” said Sautreuil.
Meanwhile, there has been no unity in the “LPR” from the very beginning, emphasized Sautreuil. Part of the Luhansk region’s territory was divided among various, more or less independent, armed groups that were to more or less antagonistic toward Plotnitsky, who was appointed leader by Valeriy Bolotov on August 14, 2014. “The problem was that in the beginning, not only was Plotnitsky unable to control the entirety of the “LPR” territory but was barely keeping Luhansk,” the journalist elaborated.
Thus in Luhansk, in addition to the “People’s Militia of the ’LPR’,” which formed around Plotnitsky’s Zarya battalion, another battalion was simultaneously on the scene there, which was under the command of Aleksandr Bednov, better known by his nome-de-guerre Batman, who has opposed to Plotnitsky’s rule.
Moreover, other forces in opposition to Plotnitksy’s “LPR” were the Kazaki brigade and the Prizrak” brigade led by Alexei Mozgovoy. Together, these battalions formed a corridor independent from the “LPR” and the “DPR” going from Pervomaysk to Sverdlovsk. Mozgovoy called Plotnysky a “traitor,” while Pavel Dryomov decided to found a yet another self-declared Kazak People’s Republic in Stakhanov, meaning a “state inside a state inside the state.”
According to Pierre Sautreuil, there are three main reasons for enmity between Plotnytsky and the other local leaders:
1) Differing visions of so-called Novorossiya. The opposition leaders were against the Minsk agreements and in favor of a large and grand concept of Novorossiya, while Plotnitsky complied with Kremlin’s orders, namely those calling for a wrap-up of the project, and a refocusing on Donetsk and Luhansk.
2) Economic interests. Each group controls different financial flows, markets and businesses. Each motivated their raiding as a “revolution tax.”
3) Different support groups in Moscow. The Kazaki, Batman and Mozgovoy enjoy the support of Igor Strelkov’s network and largely supported the idea of a large Novorossiya from Donetsk to Odesa. Plotnitsky is presumably supported by Russian special services.
The elections that took place November 2014 were intended to legalize Plotnitsky’s power in the “LPR”. A lot of candidateslike Batman were not able to even register themselves. After the elections in the “LPR,” a series of murders, arrests and disarmament incidents took place aimed to monopolize power in hands of Plotnitsky, stated the journalist.
November 28, 2014 –Vyacheslav Pizhanin Antratsyt warlord was killed.
January 1, 2015 – Batman was killed.
January 10 – Odessa brigade members were disarmed and detained.
January 23 – Yevgeniy Ishchenko, Pervomaysk warlord was killed;
March 1 – Sergey Kossogor, Krasnyi Luch warlord was arrested;
May 23 – Aleksey Mozgovoy was killed;
May 26 – Aleksandr Gaidei, Sverdlovsk warlord fled to Russia;
July 29 – The battalion of Sergey Motonakha (Rovenky warlord) was disarmed;
“I paid particular attention to the case of Batman. The investigation of his murder brought me to the topic of the illegal sale of the content of Russian humanitarian convoys in the “LPR.” Part of money received from the sales was then returned to the pockets of officials in the Ministry of Emergency of the Russian Federation,” elaborated Sautreuil. His article, “Who killed Major ‘Batman’?,” was translated into English and published on UCMC’s web site.
“It is quite possible that the Russian humanitarian convoys which are a powerful instrument of Russian propaganda, in fact cover the cynical and scandalous system of personal enrichment and profiteering at the expense of millions of war victims,” the journalist summarized.