Murder of DPR President Aleksander Zakharchenko. Comments from his close associates 

Murder of DPR President Aleksander Zakharchenko. Comments from his close associates
Aleksander Zakharchenko planned to resign and leave the DPR in mid-September Photo: The CrimeRussia

This material is based on information and conclusions provided by well-aware sources, both military and civilian, residing in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and directly related to Aleksander Zakharchenko – i.e. members of the so-called ‘pool’ of the President, Prime Minister, and Commander-in-Chief of the DPR in one person.

After the terrorist attack in the center of Donetsk on August 31, 2018 resulting in the death of Aleksander Zakharchenko, Head of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), a group of operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation has arrived to the DPR overnight into September 1 as per personal order of Vladimir Putin to assist in the capture and punishment of the assassins. Sergei Beseda, Head of the Operative Information and International Liaison Service of the FSB, has confirmed this.

The main version currently examined by the Russian secret services implicates an attempted pro-Ukraine coup. Initially, it was planned to postpone all personnel appointments and elections scheduled to November 18, 2018 pending the completion of the inquest into the death of the DPR leader. However, on August 6, it became known that the regional and parliamentary elections in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics will be still carried out. According to an RBC source, the Kremlin decided to hold the elections simultaneously in the DPR and LPR.

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"...There is no doubt that Ukrainian secret services are responsible for this. This is a well-planned and masterfully performed terrorist attack against the leader of a self-proclaimed republic. Nationalists and the military could not carry out such an operation. It involved secret services and recruiting approaches. Therefore, this is not only about the investigation of a crime – the situation also has a counterintelligence aspect. How could the Ukrainian secret services do this? If there is a pattern, it can be replicated again. If scattered but well-organized terrorist groups subordinate to the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) operate on our borders, we must give a serious thought to this and develop countermeasures," – retired FSB general Aleksander Mikhailov told in an interview to Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper. The main point here are "the recruiting approaches". 

Zakharchenko planned to leave the DPR in mid-September 

The material below is based on information and conclusions provided by well-aware sources, both military and civilian, residing in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and directly related to Aleksander Zakharchenko – i.e. members of the so-called ‘pool’ of the President, Prime Minister, and Commander-in-Chief of the DPR in one person.

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The murder of Aleksander Zakharchenko was committed amid the ‘purge’ of military units not controlled by the corps launched in July 2018. Battalions not subordinate to the corps and unwilling to become its parts (e.g. Pyatnaskha International Brigade) were disarmed. Concurrently, rumors were circulating in the DPR that something is going to happen in September and drastically change the political, economic, and, most importantly, military agenda.

Many people are now linking these ‘prophesies’ with the death of Aleksander Zakharchenko and make hasty conclusions that this murder was, in fact, announced in advance. But it is not quite so.

The point is that in mid-September 2018, Aleksander Zakharchenko had planned not only to resign from all his posts but also leave the DPR. He was already making preparations for the forthcoming relocation to Russia with his family. People close to Zakharchenko were aware of this. Aleksander Timofeev (Tashkent), Minister of Taxation of the DPR, also injured in the terrorist attack, had also examined the possibility to move to the Russian Federation over time; however, being the second person in the DPR after Zakharchenko, he legitimately intended to take charge of the republic after his resignation for some period. Three weeks before the terrorist attack, Tashkent had reportedly tried to make a trip to Russia – but was stopped at the DPR border. The reasons behind this incident remain unknown.

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Inseparable Timofeev and Zakharchenko at the Immortal Regiment March in Donetsk. May 9, 2017

Why Zakharchenko came to Separ Cafe? 

It is known that at 14:00–15:00 on August 31, 2018, Aleksander Zakharchenko was supposed to depart, together with one of the battalion commanders, from Donetsk to Moscow to attend the funeral of Iosif Kobzon and an important meeting at the Presidential Executive Office. However, at some 6 p.m., the Head of the DPR somehow arrived at ill-fated Separ Cafe.    

Who had ‘annulled’ the scheduled official departure of Zakharchenko? Why has he changed the plans and went to a cafe to attend a meeting disguised under the commemoration of Iosif Kobzon?

“It was a shell-less explosive device blasting with an impact wave and fire. Aleksander Vladimirovich was hit by the impact wave. They drove from the residence (located 170 m from the cafe – The CrimeRussia) to the meeting place and stopped on the parking lot. They had frequently visited this establishment. They have entered it one by one. The security guard was the first; he was killed instantly. The Head of the DPR was the second; he was killed almost instantly. The next was another guard, he currently remains in the intensive care unit. Natasha Volkova was the next, she was severely injured. Timofeev and the rest of the guards were going after her. Terrorists call this a “blind mine”. They knew that he often visits this cafe,” – Aleksander Kazakov, Advisor to the Head of the DPR assigned by Moscow, told the media shortly after the tragedy.

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Aleksander Kazakov speaks with Russian journalists at the terrorist attack scene on September 1, 2018   

The “blind mine” consisted of 800 g of explosive materials and was planted in a light fixture on the ceiling. According to the sources, prior to the arrival of Zakharchenko, the cafe was inspected by experts with a specially trained dog who hadn’t found anything because the mine was under the ceiling. The radio-controlled explosive device was activated right in time – not ‘blindly’; this means that the terrorist was fully aware who is going to come to the cafe and when.

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There was lots of blood near the scene   

It is necessary to note that the establishment and surrounding area were closely guarded. Separ Cafe launched 9 months ago used the so-called ‘control system’ – outsiders were not allowed to it; a person could enter the cafe only accompanied by somebody known and considered a ‘friend’ there. The establishment belongs to Aleksander Kostenko, a bodyguard of Aleksander Zakharchenko and leader of the Donetskaya Respublika (Donetsk Republic) parliamentary fraction.

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Aleksander Kostenko, owner of Separ Cafe where the Head of the DPR was killed   

Immediately after the terrorist attack, rumors started spreading that Kostenko has disappeared, went into hiding, and allegedly fled from the republic. In fact, Kostenko had never disappeared. 

“I am here and giving testimonies. I can say that some suspects have already been identified,” – he told journalists on September 3.

Ukrainian trace with Donetsk shade? 

The suspects are a separate puzzle in this case. Within a matter of hours after the attack, it was reported that several Ukrainian commandos were captured on Bogdana Khmelnitskogo street near the blast site and confirmed in the course of the interrogation the involvement of Ukraine in this crime. The Ministry of State Security of the DPR has stated that there were several raiding groups and some terrorists still remain in the republic. Then it was announced that the detained people have been released because they had nothing to do with the bomb. Apparently, the perpetrators still remained on the loose. The version involving a group of Ukrainian commandos was ultimately ruled out because special force troopers simply could not get inside the closely guarded cafe and spend there half an hour planting an explosive device into a light fixture.

By the way, Kiev, who normally takes credits for all terrorist attacks committed in the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics to boost its self-esteem, is actively denying any involvement into the assassination of the Head of the DPR.

On September 5, 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the DPR has issued a warrant against two men suspected of complicity in the terrorist attack. The MIA web site has published photos of the suspects. According to the investigation, on August 31, 2018, they were in the cafe. But a few hours later, the ministry has announced that the persons put on the wanted list have nothing to do with the incident.    

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“The Ministry of Internal Affairs thanks the citizens for the provided information; the involvement of the persons whose photos were posted earlier in the incident was not confirmed,” – the official statement said. 

Of course, the Ukrainian trace cannot be ruled out in this crime. But the perpetrators could not commit it without the assistance of a person (or persons) having direct access to Aleksander Zakharchenko – i.e. members of his ‘inner circle'. The brilliant realization of the attack confirms this bringing us back to the above-mentioned "recruiting approaches": the assassin was fully aware of the time of Aleksander Zakharchenko's arrival to Separ Cafe. So, the question is: who was the mysterious vis-а-vis having an appointment with the Head of the DPR under the disguise of a commemoration? Who has brought Zakharchenko to the cafe for liquidation?

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Destroyed cafe

First, this person can be identified by reviewing the last mobile calls of Zakharchenko – this is a commonly-accepted international criminalistic practice. Second, it is necessary to question the cafe personnel to find out who had ordered the commemorative feast. Third, records of the external surveillance cameras must be examined – not only near the cafe, but also in the vicinity. Furthermore, security cameras most probably were installed inside the establishment as well. 

Nothing is known about the majority of the victims 

Security guard Vyacheslav Dotsenko (codename Slavyan) was killed together with Zakharchenko. A native of Donetsk, he had been fighting for the republic since 2014.

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Vyacheslav Dotsenko (on the left)

Twelve people suffered wounds of various degrees of severity. Seven of them received ambulatory treatment, while the remaining five have been admitted to Gusak Institute of Emergency and Reconstructive Surgery. 20-year-old Natalia Volkova, Head of Oplot Donbassa (Donbass Stronghold) Youth Platform, is among them. The girl suffered burns of 60% of the body's surface and lung burns; she remains in serious condition, and the medics don’t provide any forecasts. It is also known that 22-year-old cafe employee Yaroslava was wounded in the head. No information is available about her condition.

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Natalia Volkova was inside Separ Cafe at the time of the blast

Aleksander Timofeev (Tashkent) suffered a severe concussion and spent the next night in the intensive care unit. However, contrary to doctors' recommendations, after taking a significant dose of painkillers, he had stayed near the casket of Aleksander Zakharchenko since the morning of September 2 and until the burial.

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Tashkent

Nothing is known about the other nine victims. Are all of them security guards and cafe employees? Are the participants of the commemorative feast among them? A source close to the ‘inner circle’ of Zakharchenko doubts that the ceremony had involved only Zakharchenko, Timofeev, and Volkova.

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Tashkent

Nothing is known about the other nine victims. Are all of them security guards and cafe employees? Are the participants of the commemorative feast among them? A source close to the ‘inner circle’ of Zakharchenko doubts that the ceremony had involved only Zakharchenko, Timofeev, and Volkova. 

"Most probably, there was a fourth participant or even a few of them. And the mastermind, who didn't care who may accompany Zakharchenko, was near the cafe. Zakharchenko could invite to Separ any person he wanted! Any person – because despite the understanding that his life was in danger, he was very sociable and outgoing person. Everybody is interested: how could a 20-year-girl end up in such a high-profile company? I can tell you: she was a close friend of Tashkent. At 2 p.m., Natalia Volkova had held an event in memory of the slain children on Angelov valley in Donetsk. Most probably, Timofeev himself has invited her,” – the source told. 

Akhmetov comes back to Donbass? 

37-year-old Dmitry Trapeznikov, Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Administration for Internal and Foreign Policy of the Executive Office of the President of the DPR, became the acting head of the republic. Little is known about him in the DPR where Trapeznikov is ironically nicknamed "effective manager" and "functional bureaucrat". He used to be the Manager of FC Shakhtar Donetsk (whose President is Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov) and was in charge of various business structures. In 2010–2012, Trapeznikov was a Deputy Head of the Petrovsky District of Donetsk. Up until spring 2014, he worked in Kiev as the General Director of Ukoopvneshtorg Trade House. In September 2014, Trapeznikov was appointed the Head of the Interim Administration of the Telmanovsky District of the DPR – this was the beginning of his civilian career in the republic. Shortly after that, he became a Deputy Prime Minister of the DPR. It is necessary to note that Trapeznikov had neither participated in the mass anti-Ukraine protest rallies (Russian Spring), nor was he involved in military operations. On the contrary, he had staged pro-Akhmetov rallies “For United Ukraine” and distributed charitable aid delivered to Donbass Arena by Rinat Akhmentov Foundation for Development of Ukraine.

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Rinat Akhmentov

Trapeznikov has tense relations with Maksim Leshchenko, ex-Head of the Administration of Zakharchenko, – at one of the parties, Trapeznikov has fired a pistol at Leshchenko and wounded him in the hip. The relations between Trapeznikov and Timofeev are equally complicated – they hate each other. In the last year, Trapeznikov had always tried to stay close to Zakharchenko – concurrently being a quiet and plain bureaucrat. In fact, he rules all information flows in the republic. In addition, he had controlled the access to Zakharchenko: only Tashkent, being the ‘right hand’ of the Head of the DPR, could see him without the authorization of Trapeznikov.

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Trapeznikov never participated in military operations but likes to wear uniform   

“In fact, Trapeznikov is the ‘Grey Eminence’ of the DPR. He maintains contacts with Rinat Akhmentov and Executive Office of the Russian President. It is not a secret that Akhmentov intends to regain control over his ‘realm’ – especially taking that external powers are trying to force the republic back into Ukraine under the guise of the Minsk agreements. Russia is interested in the fastest resolution of the ongoing military conflict – but it is not willing to recognize the self-proclaimed state or affiliate it. Yes, Zakharchenko was a signatory to these ‘agreements’ – he had sincerely believed in diplomacy. But he had adamantly opposed any status of the DPR as a part of Ukraine. He had advocated for reintegration with Russia. But Akhmentov does not want this. There are plenty of his henchmen in the DPR – therefore, it can’t be ruled out that the infamous ‘Ukrainian terrorists’ have nothing to do with this murder. Unlike Zakharchenko, the candidacy of Trapeznikov is acceptable to Ukraine,” – one of our sources says.

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“...I think, that, being a ‘dark house’, Trapeznikov is acceptable to Russia as well; therefore, it is necessary to start the de-glorification period. No heroes are needed anymore. Now Moscow can say to its Normandy Four partners: We understand why Kiev could not hold negotiations with Zakharchenko – he had fought against it, there was blood on his hands. But why not to start negotiations with Trapeznikov now?” – Ukrainian political expert Vadim Karasev supports the opinion of our source in Donetsk.

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Why was it necessary to kill Aleksander Zakharchenko taking that he was going to leave the republic in September?

The answer is simple: he knew too much. By the way, the life of Aleksander Timofeev is currently at risk as well: first, he knows as much as Zakharchenko did; and second, he has a legitimate right to become the Acting Head of the DPR upon recovery. In fact, several other Donetsk functionaries may struggle for that post as well, including Denis Pushilin, Chairman of the People’s Council and Permanent Representative to the Minsk Contact Group. The FSB specialists dispatched from Moscow have plenty of work to do because an attempt to stage a pro-Ukraine coup was indeed made in the republic. Donetsk people understand this very well – more than 120 mourners came to pay last respects to the slain Head of the DPR. 

P.S. 

On September 7, 2018, it became known that Natalia Zakharchenko, widow of the late head of the republic, has visited the frontline. She spoke with soldiers of the DPR army and noted that the fighters are eager to avenge the death of Aleksander Zakharchenko. 

"Everybody wants revenge, and so do I. We will do this, but only at the order," – Life.ru cites Natalia Zakharchenko. According to her, it was popularly believed that the DPR might plunge into chaos after the death of its leader – but instead, the people have united. "We have a cause to strive and fight for,” – she concluded. 

The widow of Zakharchenko assured that the soldiers may address her any time and promised to “help as Batya (Wardaddy) did”. She emphasized the need to continue the lifework of the slain DPR leader and implement his undertakings.

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