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Shooting from the hip? Mozgovoy Assassination

May 24, 2015

Last evening, Alexie Mozgovoy, commander of the Ghost Battalion, within the “Luhansk People’s Republic” met an untimely death.  He was assassinated on the road between Luhansk and the Ghost Battalion stronghold of Alchevsk.

For those who want the gory details of the assassination, you won’t find them here, suffice to say he was assassinated, together with his press spokeswoman and about half a dozen bodyguards/security detail.

Within a matter of minutes of the assassination/news breaking, Anton Gerashenko (a Minister within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine) published this on his Facebook page:

“Судьба террориста…

Позвонили товарищи из Луганской области, которые мониторят радиоэфир.

Говорят, что два часа назад в районе села Михайловское, что под Алчевском, спецназ ГРУ ликвидировал известного главаря террористической организации ЛНР Алексея Мозгового и шестерых его телохранителей.

Причина – та же что и в январе с другим известным лидером луганских бандформирований “Бетменом” – не желание подчиняться командам из Москвы.

Жаль что он теперь не предстанет перед трибуналом за сотни смертей и пыток мирных граждан, к которым он был непосредственно причастен.

Собаке – собачья смерть!

Кто следующий? Главарь Стахановских террористов Паша Дремов, Гиви, Моторолла, Захарченко, Плотницкий ?

Напомню, что впервые банда Мозгового стала известна 13 мая прошлого года, когда ее члены расстреляли авто предпринимателя из города Антрацита, который собрав свои сбережения пытался вырваться из охваченного террором города.

Он не остановился на блок посту террористов в Свердловском районе и его машину изрешетили пулями.

Тогда погиб сам предприниматель, его жена, а 10-летняя дочь была ранена.

Также Алексей Мозговой был известен своими контактами с Владимиром Жириновским, который одно время был спонсором его банды.”

What is interesting, for all the intelligence failings Ukraine suffers, or claims it suffers, Mr Gerashenko was immediately pointing at a Russian GRU assassination.  The inference within his Facebook entry being that “assets” within the LNR learned this information from “monitoring the airwaves” – however, Mr Gerashenko occasionally “shoots from the hip” metaphorically speaking.

He may mean that the assassination was confirmed by assets within the LNR whom caught “the news” via intercepts, rather than any “chatter” that was stating the Russian GRU was responsible.

So, questions:

Is Mr Gerashenko indeed metaphorically “shooting from the hip” in making that GRU claim?

Naturally it is not an option in the “LNR” investigation as is made clear below (with English subtitles):

If not, then the SIGINT will surely surface, as the Ukrainian SBU likes to put it on Youtube for all to hear.  If it is not SIGINT, then an “asset” may have provided such information.

Perhaps Mr Gerashenko feels that the “separatists” are incapable of assassinating such a well known and careful (though clearly not careful enough) “separatist commander”.  One has to suspect, however, after over a year of fighting, (and a lot of Russian training), that certain battalions are by now quite capable of carrying out assassinations with or without Russian participation.

After public criticism of Igor Plotnitsky, the Kremlin puppet currently running the “LNR”, Mr Plotnitsky, will feel he has cause to remove any “separatist commander” that will not subordinate (by bribery or violence) completely to his authority.  Thus, whether the Kremlin knew about this assassination prior to it occurring and/or carried it out – or not – perhaps will take some time to come out in the wash – whatever the case, if it didn’t know before, then it knows about it now.

Let us be blunt, several “separatist” commanders have been “removed” by their “own side” during the conflict – some were “removed” by rival warlords, and others who were needlessly problematic, or  that didn’t tow the Kremlin line sufficiently as proscribed within the “republics” by the anointed “talking heads”.

If a Ukrainian Spetsnaz unit carried it out, which seems unlikely so far into occupied territory against a “target” already wary of assassination attempts after publicly criticising Plotnitsky, a swift denial, and being the first to frame the incident as “internal/GRU” is perhaps expected.  How framed, depending upon whether Ukraine would want to sow concern amongst other “separatist” commanders of further assassinations, or whether it would want to take some glory for a successful assassination mission within the “republics”.

Claims of successful assassinations are probably deemed politically unwise when trying to portray an international image of compliance to the Minsk Agreement.  Thus military/spetsnaz “showboating” seems unlikely – as does any such assassination operation, lest the assassins be caught and unhelpful media ensue.  The international community generally takes a dim view of State sponsored assassinations after all.

Likewise, as the “republics” don’t need to blame the Ukrainian spetsnaz for the assassination to undermine and ultimately collapse the Minsk agreement – ceasefire breaches will suffice – they are not about to admit Ukrainian spetsnaz can waltz through their lines, assassinate one of the battalion commanders, and waltz back out again undetected.  That would not present the image they wish to project.

Why was Mr Mozgovoy and crew where they were, when they were, for the assassination to occur?  Who knew they would be where they were and when?  Who instigated the reason for his journey and why?  The usual basic questions will arise, with answers casting some light – and perhaps shadows upon the events over the next week or so.  After all, knowing these answers circumstantial questions, still doesn’t answer the “who done it” question.

All that said,  Anton Gerashenko is a Minister within the Ministry of Internal Affairs and may well be absolutely correct in his finger-pointing at the GRU.  He may well have information far better than that appearing in the media, and his Facebook post, upon which to make such a claim within minutes of the news breaking of the assassination.

Whatever the case, he had good reason to publicly frame the assassination first before the Kremlin and its “republics” had the chance to do so and by directly involving Ukraine – if sticking by the maxim that he who frames first, normally wins the argument.  Indeed, perhaps no commentary by a government minister would have been interpreted as involvement.

Perhaps we will learn whether the GRU carried out the assassination as claimed over the coming week/weeks – as and when the dust settles.

As for the demise of such a well known “separatist” commander and the implications for Ukraine?  It really changes nothing unless panic spreads amongst the other commanders – which it won’t, with many having struck their deals with  Plotnitsky (and those behind him) already.

Those that haven’t may now be a little more swift in doing so, lest they be forced to remove Plotnitsky instead.

Ultimately, there is a better than good chance that the assassination will be written off to “subversives/partisans” or criminality – unless and until the LNR need an excuse to remove another less than submissive warlord amongst their ranks, who can then be deemed responsible in a framing of a very different kind.

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