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First head of Russian-backed “Luhansk People’s republic” Bolotov reported dead

Valery Bolotov, ex-head of the “LNR.” Photo: RIA Novosti/Evgeniy Biyatov

Valery Bolotov, the first head of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LNR”), died. Bolotov’s associate Aleksandr Borodai, the former “Prime Minister” of the “LNR,” told the Russian outlet RBK that Bolotov’s relatives informed him of the death, and the news was confirmed by a source from Bolotov’s circle.

Bolotov was born in Taganrog (Russia) and had a background in the Russian military, contradicting the myth that the war in the Donbas region of Ukraine is a rebellion, rather than a Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine. At the time of the Russian-aided insurgency in Donbas, he was living in Luhansk.

Bolotov was elected head of the self-proclaimed “LNR” in May 2014. He participated in the armed seizure of the building of Ukraine’s Security Service in Luhansk. In August 2014, he resigned after being wounded in battle and was replaced by Igor Plotnitskiy. It is widely believed that Russia replaced its initial Russian figureheads of the “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics” such as Bolotov, Alexander Borodai, Igor “Strelkov” Girkin with Ukrainians, such as Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky, in part to promote the semblance of the war in Eastern Ukraine as a local rebellion.

Bolotov was also a member of the organization “Union of Donbas volunteers,” an association working to build international support for the Russian-backed separatists fighting against the Ukrainian army.

The preliminary explanation is that Bolotov died from a heart attack in Moscow, according to the head of the separatist information center South-Eastern front Konstantin Knyrik, reported.

The leaders of the Russian-backed “republics” in Ukraine’s eastern territories have been victims of mysterious deaths, which has fueled speculation on what exactly the relationships between the “republic leaders” and their Russian masters are. The British outlet The Guardian wrote  then that Pavlov was “killed as result of either an internal feud or Russia removing ‘inconvenient’ separatist leaders in the field.”

Earlier, a series of mysterious deaths took place in the “LNR” after an alleged military coup against Igor Plotnitskiy, in which former “Prime Minister” Gennadiy Tsypkalov was found hanging in his cell, warlord Yaroslav Zhilin was killed in a restaurant, and former deputy of people’s militia chief Vitalii Kiselyov died in his prison cell. There were four other similar cases during the last six months: Aleksandr Bushuev, Aleksandr Nemogay, Alexander Osipov, and Sergey Litvin were reportedly killed due to their disobedience or growing personal authority. This suggests that those who refuse to follow the rules set by Moscow are being replaced by more obedient individuals. 

In this regard, it is worth recalling that in his last public interview to Rosbalt on 8 December 2016 (find an English-language summary here), Bolotov accused his successor Plotnitskiy of staging his own assassination for publicity purposes, which resulted in Bolotov’s dismissal from the post of the head of the self-proclaimed republic. In the same interview, Bolotov claimed that “LNR” militants were shooting at Luhansk in the summer of 2014 (contradicting the Kremlin myth of the Ukrainian Army being “punishers” of Donbas), that Tsylpakov had a curator in Moscow, that under Plotnitsky’s leadership the “LNR” regime engaged in prosecuting, torturing, and murdering his rivals, as well as in destroying the reputations of warlord figures with alleged popularity in Donbas.

Note. This article initially incorrectly stated that Bolotov is a Russian citizen. It has been amended to reflect that Bolotov, while being born in Russia, held a Ukrainian passport.


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