But these alleged crimes are unlikely to be considered crimes against humanity, and it would also be difficult to send them to the International Criminal Court.

The statement was made by Arseniy Pavlov, better known by his nom-de-guerre Motorola, in a telephone conversation with the Kyiv Post on April 3. Motorola, head of the Kremlin-backed Sparta Battalion, said that he would not comment on presumed eyewitnesses’ testimony that he had murdered Ukrainian prisoner of war Ihor Branovytsky on Jan. 21.

“I don’t give a f**** about what I am accused of, believe it or not,” Motorola said. “I shot 15 prisoners dead. I don’t give a f****. No comment. I kill if I want to. I don’t if I don’t.”

In a recorded conversation with the Kyiv Post on April 3, Kremlin-backed warlord Arseniy Pavlov, known as Motorola, confessed to killing 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war.


An investigator at the Interior Ministry told the Kyiv Post that the
claim is already being investigated as part of the portfolio of crimes
against humanity. Branovytsky’s murder is a part of this case.

Russian citizen Motorola, 32, was born in the city of Ukhta in Komi
Republic and also used to live in Rostov-on-Don. Previously he fought
against Islamist insurgents in Chechnya and worked as a blue-collar
worker and a lifeguard. Motorola’s Sparta Battalion played a major role in the takeover of Donetsk Airport by Kremlin-backed militants in January.

An original recording of a conversation with Motorola can potentially be used as evidence in court if it was recorded by a journalist and then given to an investigator, Valentyna Telychenko, a prominent lawyer, said. “Subsequently there must be an analysis of his voice and the authenticity of the digital media,” she said.

Yevhen Zakharov, head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, described the presumed crime, if it was committed, as an aggravated premeditated murder and a violation of the right to life, according to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


“Extrajudicial executions are banned and are defined as war crimes,” Tetiana Mazur, head of Amnesty International in Ukraine, told the Kyiv Post.

Vasil Vovk, head of the State Security Service’s main investigative department, said on April 3 that the Branovytsky case had been opened under the crimes against humanity article. However, there are difficulties with qualifying the murder of Branovytsky and the alleged killing of 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war as crimes against humanity, Mazur said.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as ones directed against civilians, as opposed to soldiers who are taken prisoner, and they must be “widespread or systematic.”

“Crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack,” the statute reads.

Another charge against Motorola and his Sparta Battalion is the torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war, banned under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to Yury Sova, an eyewitness of the killing, he and other prisoners were beaten by Motorola’s men for six to seven hours in a row.


“If Branovytsky was beaten brutally and cruelly, it’s torture,” Zakharov said.

He added that almost all Ukrainian prisoners of war had been tortured by separatists but Ukrainian authorities had so far failed to document such cases.

Vovk said that the Branovytsky case could be sent to the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

However, there are obstacles to transferring any cases against Motorola to the Hague. So far, Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which recognizes the court’s jurisdiction in specific countries.

On Feb. 4, the Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution recognizing the jurisdiction of the Hague court for war crimes committed by Russia and Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine from Feb. 20, 2014 until Feb. 4, 2015.

However, the president has not yet formally sent the resolution to the Hague, Mazur said. Some analysts have also argued that Ukrainian authorities had no right to partially recognize the Hague court’s jurisdiction and must do it completely by ratifying the Rome Statute.

Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Abroskin, head of Donetsk Oblast’s police department, published the personal data of about 40 Sparta Battalion fighters on April 5 on Facebook.


“The country must know its ‘heroes’ by name,” he said. “They have the blood of our compatriots on their hands.”

Kyiv Post staff writer Oleg Sukhov can be reached at [email protected]

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