“DPR” head Aleksandr Zakharchenko killed: what’s next?

On August 31 at about 18:00 a blast occurred in the Separ (short for separatist) café in Donetsk killing the “DPR” head Aleksandr Zakharchenko, at least three more persons were injured. UCMC takes a look at how it happened, who Zakharchenko was and who might be behind the incident, read on.

How it happened. The explosive device was planted into a lamp next to the table where Zakharchenko used to sit. The “DPR” head died from a head injury. Entry and exit from Donetsk are currently closed, state of emergency has been declared and the holiday of the first school day has been cancelled.

Suspects as per “DPR”. “DPR” suspect Zakharchenko’s bodyguard in attempting his life, the suspect then disappeared from the blast site. All the border crossing points at the state border with Russia as well as all the checkpoints across the contact line with Ukraine’s government controlled area are currently closed as the search for the suspect proceeds. Later separatists claimed to have detained the organizers of the fatal explosion. They were said to be “Ukrainian subversives”.

Reaction of Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Mariana Betsa, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said that behind the murder is the Russian Federation. “The super blistering reaction that the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Russian Federation demonstrated over the murder of Zakharchenko is illustrative of at least Russia’s attempts to cover up its puppets that it supports and finances,” Betsa twitted.

Reaction of Ukraine’s Security Service. Spokesperson of Ukraine’s Security Service Olena Hitlyanska in a comment to the Interfax Ukraine news agency confirmed the fact of Zakharchenko’s murder in Donetsk. “As for the death of Zakharchenko, it is true. The Security Service of Ukraine considers it being a consequence of the internecine fights that have long been on between the terrorists including the ones with their Russian leaders,” she said.

Reaction of Russia to Zakharchenko’s murder. The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin expressed condolences on the murder of the “DPR” head. “The villainous murder of Aleksandr Zakharchenko is yet another testimony that those who have chosen the way of terror, violence and intimidation do not want to look for a peaceful political resolution of the conflict and do not want an actual dialogue with the people of the south-east,” the statement on the Kremlin’s web site says. Ukraine is not mentioned directly in the Putin’s statement. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation started a criminal case on Zakharchenko’s murder classifying it as an “act of international terrorism”.   

Not the first attempt. Earlier Zakharchenko reported several times on the attempts on his life. One of the first ones took place in August 2014. In April 2016 the attempt was presumably prevented by the so-called “National Security Ministry” of the “DPR”. Another attempt on Zakharchenko’s life took place in May 2017 by the memorial site Savur Mohyla. Back then the head of the “DPR” blamed the explosion on Ukraine.

Who was Zakharchenko?

Aleksandr Zakharchenko was born in Donetsk where he graduated from an industrial automation engineering college, worked as a mine foreman and electro-mechanical technician, he later entered the Donetsk Legal Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. According to investigative journalists of “Insider” media, Zakharchenko used to work for the Party of Regions for a long time. Medical certificates released by Ukrainian media show that in 2010 Aleksandr Zakharchenko was examined at the Kharkiv regional center for medical and social expertise and was assigned the 2ndgroup of disability due to a mental disease. The document issued by the medical center mentions “continuous irreversible mental disorders” as well as states “that the patient’s actions represent a threat to others.” He was sent for treatment to the Kharkiv regional psychiatric hospital no.3.     

In 2013 Aleksandr Zakharchenko joined the Kharkiv-based pro-Russian organization Oplot, chairing its Donetsk-based unit. On April 16, 2014 he headed a group of militants that seized the Donetsk city administration. A month later Zakharchenko was appointed the military commandant of the militant-seized Donetsk, later – “Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs” of the “DPR”. In August 2014 he chaired the “Council of Ministers” of the “DPR”. Following the so-called “elections” in the “DPR” Zakharchenko was proclaimed the winner and was assigned the “certificate of the ‘DPR’ head”, he was said to have been voted for by 765 thousand people (about 75 per cent of voters).

What is currently going on in Donetsk?The city is closed on entry and exit, both the state border with Russia and the contact line with Ukraine’s government-controlled part are closed. The city is in panic, many are unsure of what will happen next.

What’s next? In the evening on August 31 deputy of the so-called “People’s Council” of the “DPR” Vladislav Berdychevskyi told the Russian Interfax agency that Dmytro Trapeznikov will be the acting “DPR” head.

Dmytro Trapeznikov is 37 years old. He graduated from the Donetsk State Academy for Construction and Architecture, worked as a manager of the Shakhtar football club between 2001 and 2005. Locals consider him a secret agent of influence standing for the interests of Rinat Akmetov, Ukrainian businessman and the president of the “Shakhtar” football club.

In September 2014 he was appointed head of the “temporary administration” of the Telmanivsky district of the “DPR”. Since then he’s been covering different “posts” in the “administration” of the “DPR head”.