War in Donbas

Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council has made public a telephone intercept in which voices said to be those of the prime minister of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, and a man who identifies himself as Aleksandr Markov, the head of a Russian organization supporting Novorossiya (name for south-eastern Ukraine used by pro-Russian separatists, their supporters in Russia), discuss a proposal to send Russian investigators to Donetsk to question Ukrainian POWs with a view to putting senior officers on trial in Russia. This is the text of the recording played by NSDC spokesman Andriy Lysenko during a briefing in Kyiv shown on 5 Kanal TV on 31 August:

[Zakharchenko] Hullo?
[Markov] Hullo, Aleksandr Vladimirovich?

[Zakharchenko] Good. Yes.

[Markov] My name is Markov, Aleksandr Gennadiyevich. I am head of the information centre for aid to Novorossiya. Do you have a minute?

[Zakharchenko] Yes.

[Markov] In the near future, the governments of western countries will be considering a draft resolution on declaring the DNR, LNR [self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’] terrorist organizations. Accordingly, all private citizens, organizations and states providing aid to the republics will be subject to sanctions. Therefore, the government of the Russian Federation is trying to act pre-emptively. Their immediate task is to gather a mass of information – photos, video, confessions from POWs held by Novorossiya.

I have been approached by people from the Investigations Committee of the Russian Federation with a request to establish contact with the DNR leadership on three issues.
First, they want to obtain information on high-ranking Ukrainian POWs with the aim of carrying out inquiries and questioning, which may lead to the opening of court cases in Russia.

Second, they are asking for any possible information on citizens of the Russian Federation who are fighting on the side of the Ukrainian junta. They have been given a clear order to carry out active operational measures with respect to these citizens. The first arrests have taken place in Moscow and St Petersburg. The task is to completely deprive that side [Ukrainian authorities] of support on the territory of the Russian Federation, at least.

Third, they are ready to send several experienced employees of the Investigations Committee to the territory of Novorossiya to provide assistance to newly-formed investigative bodies of Novorossiya and to conduct the questioning and all operational measures on the territory – of course, on the condition that this won’t be taking place right on the front line. It would be ideal if the Novorossiya authorities could provide a small building with a small cellar for the temporary detention of particularly interesting POWs, the people from the Investigations Committee would be ready to provide any support – material and technical assistance, personnel – to carry out filtration of captives and it is possible that, with the consent of the Novorossiya leadership, individual captives might unexpectedly turn up on the territory of the Russian Federation, where they will immediately be arrested for illegally crossing the border and right away cases will be launched based on the materials collected in this centre.

[Zakharchenko] Without question.
[Markov] I have spoken with Clown [reference unclear]. He also likes the idea.
[Zakharchenko] Who did you speak with?
[Markov] With whom?
[Zakharchenko] Yes. I just misheard. Who did you speak with?

[Markov] With the Tsar [reference unclear, possibly refers to Novorossiya parliament speaker Oleh Tsaryov (Oleg Tsarev)].
[Zakharchenko] With the Tsar. OK. I am waiting. Say where and when we can meet. It’s a great proposal. I think we will start working right away.

[Markov] So it would be best to send someone directly to you.
[Zakharchenko] Yes. Yes.

[Markov] Good. Agreed. I’ll discuss with them who will travel and when. We will deliver him to the border and on to Zuhres [town east of Donetsk]. I think the guys can take them from there to Donetsk.

[Markov] We will meet him at null point [possibly refers to border].

[Zakharchenko] That’s even better. Thanks. Goodbye.

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