Rybak, who was a member of Horlivka’s city council and the ruling Batkivshchyna party, was missing since April 17, when several men captured him in a city street, dragged him into a car and then sped off. Rybak’s body was found with signs of torture on the bank of a Siversky Donets river tributary together with another unidentified corpse.

The SBU said based on their investigation that the two Russian nationals, Igor Strelkov and Igor Bezler, current and former lieutenant colonels of GRU Russian military intelligence, were behind Rybak’s atrocious murder. The motive of the crime was Rybak’s brave attempts to raise the Ukrainian national flag atop of the local administration building, the security agency said.  

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“It was found that on April 17, 2014 Bezler (call sigh “Bes”) ordered to head of Horlivka’s self-proclaimed police to neutralize Rybak, who tried to set a state flag on the building of Horlivka’s regional state administration,” Kateryna Kosarieva, consultant of SBU press service said at a press briefing on April 23.

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“Bezler ordered to one of his group’s members, a Russian soldier, to kidnap Rybak, put him into a car and carry him to some determined place to apply means of physical influence on him,” she added.

After that Rybak was brought to Sloviansk by order of Strelkov, leader of the reconnaissance and sabotage group “Strelka,” which includes 30 members and operates throughout Donetsk region. Stelkov was personally planning to talk to him.

“It was also found that Strelkov personally gave orders to Viacheslav  Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Sloviansk, to carry Rybak’s dead body from the headquarters,” Kosarieva said, adding that Ponomarev obliged Strelkov.

According to SBU data, members of Strelkov’s group were also responsible for an attack against SBU officers near Sloviansk on April 13, when one officer was killed. Strelkov is a Russian military intelligence officer and also a military assistant of Crimean prime minister Sergey Aksionov. In Crimea Strelkov was responsible for capturing military bases, administrative buildings and participated in the interrogation of Ukrainian soldiers.

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Bezler worked in 2002 in Russian military intelligence and finished service as lieutenant colonel before he came to Ukraine. In February 2014, Russian military intelligence resumed links with Bezler, who was sent under its order to Crimea. Later Bezler participated in capturing the SBU headquarters in Donetsk region and police station in Horlivka.

Kosarieva added that both men are now on the SBU wanted list. But it’s impossible to reach them for now, as Bezler is reportedly hiding at the police station captured by pro-Russian separatists in Horlivka and Strelkov stays in Sloviansk, almost totally controlled by pro-Russian militants.

“The police are now counting the armed people, which can be called neither armed activists nor separatists. They could be called only the criminals,” said Stanisla Rechytsky, adviser of minister of interior affairs.

According to police data there are some 155 armed militants inside and around the police and SBU headquarters in Sloviansk. About 140 pro-Russians also guard 140 check points in the city. Some 45 pro-Russian militiamen are occupying police and SBU headquarters in Horlivka while some 40 people are guarding the check points, the police said.

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Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, who is also a member of Batkivshchyna party, demanded on April 22 to resume the active part of an anti-terrorist operation in Donetsk Oblast that was halted for the weekend after Geneva agreements of de-escalation were signed on April 17.

“Terrorists who have taken hostages in Donetsk region overstepped the limits when they started to torture and kill patriots of Ukraine. They dared to toss a challenge not just to our country, but to the whole world as well… following the decisions adopted in Geneva,” Turchynov said.

Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at [email protected]. 

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