war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Donbas militants copy Russian FSB ‘confession’ methods & implausible story line

Halya Coynash
Kremlin-backed militants from the so-called ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ [LPR] are again claiming to have captured ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’. Like the Russian FSB’s tactics in occupied Crimea, the entire story is based solely on the supposed ‘confessions’ of men totally under militant control.

Kremlin-backed militants from the so-called ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ [LPR] are again claiming to have captured ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’.  Like the Russian FSB’s tactics in occupied Crimea, the entire story is based solely on the supposed ‘confessions’ of men totally under militant control.

The ‘LPR state security ministry’ claimed on May 19, 2017 to have detained a sabotage and intelligence group of the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU].  They are alleged to be responsible for the deaths of two “LPR officers” and to have been planning several terrorist acts on critically important infrastructure within the so-called ‘republic’.  This was purportedly under the leadership of a Ukrainian military officer Pavlo Balov [‘Dealer’], who “recruited Vasyl Sapronov” and instructed him to form a sabotage group from Luhansk oblast residents.   All of this is allegedly ‘confirmed’ by the testimony of three men in their custody: Sapronov; Ivan Zotov and Volodymyr Danylchenko, and proves that “the regime in Ukraine has turned to terror as the main strategy in its war against the republic”.

The person named as Vasyl Sapronov is heard describing how he was ‘recruited’, and then the alleged tasks they were to fulfil, with these including the killing of “two officers of the people’s militia and LPR interior ministry” and some “commercial” contract killings.

Were three men not giving ‘testimony’ under duress, the ‘confession’ would almost be funny.  Sapronov explains that they were supposed to ‘abduct’ a fighter called Armen Bagiryan [Baggi] whom Ukraine wanted alive, and “to present as a Russian military officer”.  This was a very important task, they were told, and they were solely to abduct Bagiryan.  The job was supposed to be a way of showing what they were capable of, and Sapronov was promised five thousand dollars to be paid out to people.  In fact, Bagiryan turned up in a car with several other people, including a woman, “so they killed them all”.   For some reason, given that (if any of this were true), they had totally messed up the task, Sapronov says that they were paid $2.5 thousand.  He is then supposed to have been angered that they didn’t get the full amount, with this leading to conflict with Balov. 

The story told by Ivan Zotov is even more insane, since he claims to have been offered two thousand dollars to “eliminate” Sapronov, after they messed up the abduction of Bagiryan.   The new alleged task was also not carried out since the latter went into hiding.

The third person – Volodymyr Danylchenko – looks much more tormented than the others, and has a rather different story.  He was supposedly recruited by Sapronov with his task being to get work at a “military factory, gather information about its activities and people’s mood”.

Bagiryan, a Russian citizen who is reported to have come to fight in Donbas in 2015, was killed on Oct 2, 2016. 

The rather bizarre storyline in this case is not the first attempt to extract ‘confessions’ to the killing of prominent militants, with the captured men always claiming that this was on the instruction of the SBU and / or Ukrainian Armed Forces.

In March, the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [DPR] and Russian media widely reported

that the head of Ukraine’s counter-intelligence service was behind the killing of two prominent militants: Russian mercenary Arseny Pavlov [‘Motorola’] and Ukrainian militant Mykhailo Tolstykh [Givi].  There was even supposed to be US involvement in this.

The claims came soon after the first videoed ‘confessions’ of two captured Ukrainian intelligence officers – Serhiy Ivanchuk and Ivan Deyev.  The first reports and ‘videoed confessions’ had been posted on March 10, a day after preliminary hearings ended at the UN’s International Court of Justice into Ukraine’s charges against Russia of financing terrorism.  The timing was clearly deliberate since the men had been captured a month earlier, on Feb 11. 

As well as ‘confessing’ to the killings of militants, the men were supposed to have been planning multiple terrorist attacks against civilians in the Luhansk oblast, in cities of Crimea and the Russian Federation. 

Psychologist Oleh Lokalchuk sounded the alarm soon after the videos were publicized.  He noted the way Ivanchuk seemed unable to sit straight and said that this could be because of neuroleptic drugs.  In general, the attempt to produce supposed ‘interrogations’ had failed, he added, with everything about the men’s condition and behaviour suggesting that illegal forms of interrogation had been applied to obtain such ‘confessions’.   Ivanchuk also showed signs of having been beaten, while Deyev appeared dazed

Ivanchuk ‘admited’ responsibility for the car bomb that killed militant ‘police’ head, Oleh Anashchenko on Feb 4, and for involvement in what is claimed to have been the SBU-organized killing of Givi. 

Other versions soon appeared, with militant sources reporting plans to kill the head of the so-called Donetsk people’s republic Alexander Zakharchenko.    

Tolstykh, or Givi, was killed on Feb 8, 2017, in the very centre of Donetsk.  Pavlov or ‘Motorola’ died in a bomb explosion in his seriously well-guarded apartment building in Donetsk on October 16, 2016.  He was suspected of killing Ukrainian Donetsk Airport defender Ihor Branovytsky in cold blood and had himself boasted of having shot 15 prisoners of war.   The same eye-witnesses to Motorola’s murder of Branovytsky have reported that Givi, together with two Chechens and a woman, took part in torturing Branovytsky and the other prisoners.

In the case of Givi and Motorola, it is only really the Kremlin-funded militants and the Russian state-controlled media that have clung to claims that Ukraine was behind the killings.  Ukraine wanted both men alive to stand trial and give vital testimony.  It is telling that this time, even the LPR militants’ story suggests that here too there is a problem with motive.   

Nothing more is known about men held in captivity and unlikely to have any access to defence.


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