A number of journalists, including VICE News’ Simon Ostrovsky, who has done some of the best reporting on the crisis in eastern Ukraine to date, posted photos today of an exhumation being conducted by police. Police informed Ostrovsky that the dig site he witnessed was used as a ‘mass dumping site’ for victims executed by men under Russian terrorist Igor Girkin’s command. At the mass grave, skeletal remains of those from the Russian-Ukrainian civil war also turned up during the dig for bodies.
Ukrainian intelligence produced and presented a dossier of photographsto the OSCE last week. The images, and official accusations, point to Russian “sabotage-reconnaissance groups” being involved in the recent armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk region specifically. According to a New York Times article, the photos and their descriptions were “endorsed by the Obama administration,” but who are these men? With the power of crowdsourcing, but mostly with the power of social networking and public profiles, the identities of a series of Russian insurgents in Donetsk have been uncovered. Men have been comparing the size of their guns since the invention of gunpowder, and thankfully these few decided to flaunt just that. Publicly. On the internet.
Another point of interest is the insignia seen on a number of the gunmen. For clarity’s sake, the symbol is that of Andrei Shkuro‘s ‘Terek Wolf Company’, a detachment of White emigre Cossacks who fought for Nazi Germany during the second world war.
So who is involved in the Ukrainian invasion? Let’s take a look.
Evgeny “Dingo” Ponomarev
Ponomarev is a 39 year old native of Belorechensk, Russia, in the Kuban region. Pictured above, he is a Registered Cossack with full police badge. He is active in the Terek Cossack community, and featured in many of the photos recently presented by CNN and the BBC detailing the same group of insurgents appearing in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. At this moment there is no confirmation that he is directly related to self-declared Sloviansk mayor Vyacheslav Ponomarev, though they are pictured together.
While Ganchev’s profile is littered with cat pictures and memes, in 2013 through to January 2014 there are many photos of him in combat training, including with sniper rifles, assault rifles, heavy machine guns, and rocket launchers. Recent photos from April show him with members who seized buildings in Donetsk. Groups he is a member of include Berkut support, The Supreme Council of the people of Ukraine and Russia (which asks for “practical” assistance in imposing referendums), Crimean “self-defense” groups, and airsoft rifle groups in Crimea (which appears to be a front to gather militants and buy weapons). His current city is listed as Horlivka, Ukraine, and he appears to be from Makiivka.
Like Ponomarev, Karetniy is a member of the Belorechensk Cossack community in Russia. A photo posted on the community page details the group involved in the seizures in Sloviansk called “Terek Wolf Sotnia“. His profile is relatively new (registered in February, active more recently) so it cannot be confirmed that his identity is real, however, he does have the social connections with other members involved with a higher degree of authenticity. It’s likely this is him pictured with Ponomarev.
Update: Karetniy has since deleted all personal information and photos from his page.
Kovalyov is another from Belorechensk, Russia. His photo albums contain many swastikas and neo-Nazi or ultranationalist imagery. Photos dating back 2 years show him in paramilitary garb, while his profile picture appears to be ‘self-defense’ force paramilitary in Crimea. In another photo he appears with Karetniy while wearing the ‘Terek Wolf Company’ badge, who is also an insurgent in Donetsk with a Russian Cossack connection.
Photos show him carrying an automatic rifle in front government buildings in Slovinansk. His profile lists him as being a Simferopol native, and is a member of a Simferopol Don Cossack group. Photos also show what appears to be a swastika pendant, and Russian ultra-nationalist graphics.
Topaz is a sort of celebrity in internet circles. He was placed under house arrest on March 29 for his involvement in the March 1st raid on the Kharkiv Regional State Administration building. On April 7, Topaz fled house arrest, cutting off his monitoring bracelet. Topaz has since given interviews with the Russian channel LifeNews, and spoken about the current ‘guerrilla struggle’ and need to use firearms to capture buildings. Pictures with assault rifles, BDU, and St. George ribbon indicate it’s likely he has been involved in the current insurgency in Donetsk or Luhansk since his arrest.
This profile is less straightforward, but the photos appear to sync up. Anastasov is from Simferopol. Photos include him with various firearms. The above photo makes no indication on which building he is in, so it’s possible he was only involved in Crimea.
Pro-Russian separatists have engaged in seemingly racially motivated acts of looting and assault against Romani residents of Sloviansk, reports the News of Donbass. Armed separatists have reportedly begun a series of home invasions against the city’s Romani population, robbing and assaulting their victims. The militants apparently have shown no regard for age or gender, and women and children have been among the victims who were beaten According to eyewitnesses, the gunmen carried off stolen property in trucks.
The perpetrators claim that they are acting on the orders of the self-described ‘People’s Mayor’ and leader of the separatist militant wing, Vyacheslav Ponomarev.
The attacks on Romani, also known as Gypsies, follows a troubling precedent set the day prior when members of the Donetsk Republic organization distributed anti-Semitic leaflets in an attempt to extort and intimidate members of the Jewish community. Ponomarev has also announced a “hunt” on the Ukrainian speaking population of Sloviansk, wherein those who speak the indigenous language be treated as suspicious and reported to the local militia.
Pro-Russian separatists have engaged in seemingly racially motivated acts of looting and assault against Romani residents of Sloviansk, reports the News of Donbass. Reports of the attacks were confirmed by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. Armed separatists have reportedly begun a series of home invasions against the city’s Romani population, robbing and assaulting their victims. The militants apparently have shown no regard for age or gender, and women and children have been among the victims who were beaten According to eyewitnesses, the gunmen carried off stolen property in trucks.
The perpetrators claim that they are acting on the orders of the self-described ‘People’s Mayor’ and leader of the separatist militant wing, Vyacheslav Ponomarev. According to Ponomarev, he held talks with a Romani who he alleged were involved in drug trafficking, and “removed them from the city.” Ponomarev said they were not attacks on Romani, but rather ‘cleaning the city from drugs.’
The attacks on Romani, also known as Gypsies, follow a troubling precedent set the day prior when members of the Donetsk Republic organization distributed anti-Semitic leaflets in an attempt to extort and intimidate members of the Jewish community. Ponomarev has also announced a “hunt” on the Ukrainian speaking population of Sloviansk, wherein those who speak the indigenous language be treated as suspicious and reported to the local militia.
The Prime Minister has instructed law enforcement agencies to identify those distributing hateful material and bring them to justice, as well as those involved in the attacks on Romani.
Following a late night session of the National Security Council which discussed anti-terrorism measures and the possibility of introducing a state of emergency, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced a counter-terrorist operation would begin in Sloviansk under the leadership of the Security Service (SBU). The operation is said to include units from all service branches in Ukraine.
Shortly thereafter, Avakov stated that separatists had opened fire on special forces in the city. He then posted a notice to citizens in the city to leave the city center, stay at home, and avoid windows for their own safety.
Riot police were then reported to have cleared a separatist roadblock leading in to the city. Eyewitnesses stated that the Russian tricolor had been also taken down from atop the city administration. Helicopters have been seen flying over the city.
The news follows yesterday’s explosion of armed separatist uprising in the northern Donetk region city of Sloviansk, where masked men in army fatigues and bulletproof vests, armed with assault rifles captured the executive committee building, the police department and SBU office in the city, along with a sizable weapons cache.
The counter-terrorist operation would be the first sign of retaking the Donetsk region, which has thus far been apprehensive to fight back. The last notable operation of its kind took place on April 8 when Jaguar units from Vinnytsia were used in the arrest of 70 separatists in Kharkiv attempting to take over the Regional State Administration building.