The Head of State of self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) Igor Plotnitsky (pictured) has been forced to resign. His duties have been taken over by Head of the State Security Bureau Leonid Pasechnik. On November 21, armored vehicles rolled into Lugansk at the order of the Ministry of Interior and secured key buildings, assisted by a contingent sent by the neighboring Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). They proceeded in arresting associates of the Head of State Igor Plotnitsky, accusing them of being agents sent by Kiev. Free West Media's reporter was on site.
On November 21, armed men with white identifying arm straps appeared in the streets of Lugansk, the capital of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). They secured administrative buildings and the local TV center. When locals asked the armed men what was going on, the answer was: “Maneuvres”.
In the local media there were also reports of security units of the neighboring Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) arriving in Lugansk, also marked with white arm straps and apparently helping the militia already in the streets. We can confirm the presence of DPR forces, as we recognized an armored vehicle with the name “Chechen”, the code name of a commander of a DPR Special Forces Regiment.
Armed med with white arm bands visible, to distinguish between friend and foe. Photo: Sergey Belous
Igor Kornet, the Minister of Interior, announced that he ordered the security measures and that the operation was directed against “the terrorists that penetrated the administrative body of the Republic”. Even though the the Head of State Igor Plotnitsky was not named directly, it was evident that this was a result of the bitter conflict between Kornet and Plotnitsky.
Head of State Igor Plotnitsky. Photo: Wikipedia
The day before, on November 20, Plotnitsky ordered that Kornet should be fired from his post as Minister of Interior for “being under investigation”, but did not specify on what charges. The situation is very complex with different personal conflicts and loyalties. Some say that Plotnitsky had tried to accumulate too much power and that Kornet had stopped these attempts. The long-term conflict between the Head of State and Ministry of Interior and the State Security Service has however been evident for some time.
The security units took control of key buildings in the city of Lugansk. Photo: Sergey Belous
Igor Kornet refuted the news of his retirement, having called it “a rumor”, and claimed that an active pro-Ukrainian “fifth column” had been discovered among state officials, in the inner circle of Igor Plotnitsky. He also claimed it included such close associates as Irina Teitsman, leading his Administration, Anastasiya Shurkayeva, Director of the State TV and Radio, as well as Yevgeniy Seliverstov, Head of Personal Security. According to Kornet, they are accused of grave offences, including cooperation with Ukrainian secret services and a frame-up coup in 2016. The Minister of the Interior claimed that he had provided Igor Plotnitsky with all the procured evidence, and the Head made a decision to file criminal cases against the suspects in his team and start proceedings.
Igor Kornet, the Minister of Interior. Photo: Wikipedia
Be reminded that in September of 2016, Plotnitsky claimed that a coup attempt took place in the Republic. According to several sources, he made those claims in order to eliminate certain politicians, who prevented him from usurping power: the Head of the LPR People’s Council Alexey Karyakin and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Gennadiy Tsypkalov. As a result, Karyakin fled to Russia, and Tsypkalov was murdered.
However, in several hours’ time an official announcement appeared on the LPR Head’s site that repudiated all Kornet’s accusations against Plotnitsky’s staff, claiming that all the post-resignation moves of Kornet were illegal.
Nevertheless, a spokesman of the Minister of the Interior said that the posting on the Head’s site was perpetrated by those very “Ukrainian agents”.
Soon Igor Plotnitsky held a press conference, that failed to attract much media attention, at which he tried to pin a coup attempt on Kornet.
Press conferences are one thing, and armed med in the streets are another. Without the support of security forces, the fate of Head of State Plotnitsky was sealed.
Twitter from DPR’s account where soldiers from DPR made a photo “for good sake” of visiting LPR i front of the sign “I love Lugansk”. Photo: Twitter
People from the Ministry of Interior however assured us that the Ministry had no plans to detain or overthrow the Head of the Republic Igor Plotnitsky. On the contrary, they intended to avoid such moves and “one more time give him a chance”, ascribing all the harsh remarks in Kornet’s address to the toxic influence of his team mates. The Ministry was hoping that the conflict could be swept under a rug and negative publicity avoided, with minimal damage to the reputation of the Republic, we were told.
Whatever the case, Plotnitsky was left with few choices: either accept the rules of the game of the Ministry of Interior, voiced by Kornet, or retire. At the time, Kornet’s team assumed that Plotnitsky would formally retain his authority while real power would be taken from him. This state of things were to last till the next year’s elections, in which Plotnitsky would have little chance of winning, according to the MI officers, as the population is significantly dissatisfied with his policy.
The very fact that Russian state TV channels are much more interested in what Kornet has to say and interviewed him, while they ignore Plotnitsky’s announcements, is indirect evidence of clear Russian support for the Ministry of the Interior. Also the arrival in LPR of servicemen from the neighbouring republic, the DPR, is also an indication of a Russian nod, since it would have been impossible without Moscow’s blessing. This discount the theories of “an unsanctioned action” and “nothing more than internal squabbles”. Nevertheless, it should be noted, that also in Russia, there are different factions playing their own game.
The next day, on November 23, the LPR Head found out that he had no access to security resources: the Army remained neutral, although favourably disposed towards the police and the State Security Minister was on Kornet’s side. During the day, people still loyal to him in the General Prosecutor’s Office, including key people in the Office, were detained. Only some less important civil bodies of power remained in his hands.
Even faced with this reality, Plotnitsky kept on rejecting a compromise until the last minute. In the afternoon of November 23, the LPR Head left for negotiations to Moscow. The next evening, on November 24, the Head of State Security Bureau of the LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, made an official announcement that ”Plotnitsky had retired due to health problems, the effect of multiple battle wounds and shell shock”, and he, Pasechnik, was to become an interim Head of the Republic till the forthcoming elections.
Security personnel on check points. Photo: Sergey Belous
It is well known that Leonid Pasechnik himself is in bitter conflict with Plotnitsky. People were surprised when Plotnitsky nevertheless passed the authority to Pasechnik in November 2014, allegedly on his own accord. Plotnitsky then made repeated attempts to remove Pasechnik from his position, beginning with 2015.
The departure of Igor Plotnitsky from his office was evidently the outcome of the negotiations in Moscow: Plotnitsky had missed several opportunities he was given to remain in his position, although with symbolic authority, and now had to leave “on good terms”, because the accusations put forward against his staff risked affecting him as well. Moreover, the ex-Head of the LPR has become unpopular among the population and had long ago fallen into disrepute. Rumours circulated about his secret business deals with Ukraine, mostly with the enterprises owned by the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and embezzlement of humanitarian aid from Russia parts of which did not reach the suffering people.
After his demise, Plotnitsky was awarded with the responsibility of being an authorized representative of the LPR on the Minsk agreement’s implementation by Pasechnik. A symbolic appointment at most.
Contrary to his predecessor, Head of the State Security Bureau Leonid Pasechnik had never been criticised, neither by citizens nor by his co-workers during the years of the establishment of the self-proclaimed republic. He became known in Ukraine long before the upheaval of 2014, as early as in 2006, when he, then a commander of a unit of the Security Service of Ukraine for countering illegal trafficking in the Lugansk Region, arrested the biggest haul of smuggled goods in the recent history of the country – worth 1,9 mln USD or 7,2 mln Russian Rubles, while rejecting a bribe. In March of 2007, he was awarded a medal ”for military service to Ukraine” by the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for his professional skills.
Many citizens and state officials in the LPR had put their hopes in the new Head after the triumph of justice for staunch supporters of the Republic, but who had been ousted by Plotnitsky’s people from state structures. The mounting social and economic problems also palyed a part.
Interview with the LPR Minister of the Interior, Major General Igor Kornet
The interview took place on November 22, at 23.00 in the Ministry of Interiors’ building.
FWM: What is going on in the Republic at the moment? How would you explain the situation to an uninformed person? What is at the root of the current crisis?
– At some point Ukrainian authorities realized that they could not conquer the Republic in an open confrontation, either physically or by breaking the spirit of the people. Instead, they chose another way – a mean, terrorist way. At first, they carried out terror acts at vital infrastructure – In fact, they still persist in carrying them out. However, it was the first stage only. Our law-enforcing system, first and foremost the Ministry of the Interior and the Security Service, were effectively rebuffing the attacks. Many subversive groups had been rounded up, as well as individual terrorists, recruited by the Security Service of Ukraine and the Chief Intelligence Bureau of Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Thus, this war of terror was largely ineffective.
Igor Kornet, the Minister of Interior. Photo: Official photo
Then, a more long-term scheme was worked out, and Ukrainian agents of influence started to be implanted into our bodies of authority on orders from Kiev. I am sure, not only from Kiev, but from overseas, too. This was a smooth process, without visible rush movements, and it was hard to notice. And this scheme was basically effective. Having analyzed all job appointments in the Republic and the consequences of the new appointments, we started to understand the design and the scale of the scheme. By “we” I mean the Ministry of the Interior and the Security Service, operations staff. It was a huge cross-section, a mass of operating data that had been processed every day. The time was ripe to act, to eliminate all the vermin that had been implanted, and we already knew, with what aims. On the basis of all the processed information the entire law-enforcing system proceeded to take action.
Unfortunately, the spy ring did not want to surrender without a fight. There had been attempts to exert pressure upon the law-enforcing system, the Interior Ministry and upon me personally, using media and members of the People’s Council. There was a smear campaign. Nevertheless, those attempts were futile. When I see the target, I ignore the obstacles.
Ultimately, literally several days ago, the intelligence about a big subversive group that had found its way into our territory in order to carry out a series of terror acts, became a catalyst. Large contingents of MI and State Security got engaged. Most of the subjects were detained, but, unfortunately, not all of them. Right now, searches are carried out aimed at detecting the remaining spies that have been sent into hiding all over the Republic. I emphasize: the remaining ones. The friendly neighbouring Donetsk Republic assisted us in this work.
In fact, we succeeded in doing everything in a routine way. As a result of interrogating the agents of influence, as soon as the first detentions had been carried out, we received a huge volume of new data that finally got the puzzle assembled. As we go on rounding these people up, we receive more confirming evidence. Now we have started to upload video recordings of the interrogations, as the population must know what is happening.
A attempt event took place in our Republic in 2016 – an alleged coup attempt, and the people, who were the founding fathers of the Republic, had been accused of it. The most dignified people! Such as Gennadiy Tsypkalov, whose contribution to the foundation of the Republic was invaluable. He was a man of steel, and he was accused of the attempted coup, together with Vitaliy Kiselev, who at that time was the deputy commander for the personnel management, who also was one of the first who joined the ranks of those opposing Ukrainian aggression, and someone I met many times on the battle field – and not as an onlooker, but as an active participant, in 2014 as well as in 2015.
Right now, we can see the entire picture, the spy ring that was being constructed here for a long period, the network of influence, which had tried to curb the access of information to the Head of the Republic. The information was filtered, and our reports – mine and of the State Security Head – just did not reach him! And they contained solid evidence.
As a consequence, Gennadiy Tsypkalov died, unfortunately. We were unable to resurrect him. There were voices claiming that he had committed suicide, but I know the results of the post-mortem pretty well. He had a great number of fractures, comminuted fractures. He was subjected to inhuman torture that caused his death. And posthumously he was subjected to a smear campaign. Most of Lugansk’s inhabitants knew Gennadiy well enough, and they never believed it. Now we understand how it became possible. We know how the testimonies were extracted with the help of the agents, planted into the General Prosecutor’s Office, due to cowardice and weakness of spirit of certain officers that had become ministers, e.g., the Minister of Agriculture. I can name him openly now – Sorokovenko. He gave up his arms cache that was presented as the arms, which Tsypkalov allegedly wanted to use to seize power. It was the key piece of evidence – the arms cache.
We also found a man, who was to eliminate Gennadiy Tsypkalov by blowing him up near his residence in the settlement of Khryashevatoye. Nevertheless, they chose the meaner way later on: not simply liquidate, but to accuse of treason. This was just one episode of the huge spy ring activity that had been planted into the state apparatus. I emphasise the smooth, slow and gradual character of these actions that had been worked out by very serious centres, and not in the course of one day.
Note: Chairman of the Council of Ministers Gennadiy Tsypkalov was murdered. Notably, the authorities reported his death as suicide – allegedly, he hung himself in the prison cell – and now, within the framework of an investigation initiated by Kornet, the defendants testify that Tsypkalov died of torture, and that people from Plotnitsky’s inner circle are guilty of this crime.
FWM: Yesterday, you claimed that Plotnitsky’s Head of the Administration, Irina Teistman, and Head of the Government Security, Yevgeniy Seliverstov, are also involved in this criminal subversive activity? Are they the elements that complete the circuit, or, so to say, are they on top of the spy pyramid?
– I hope they are. Though, probably, some spies are still at large. We found out that the foundation of this pyramid was much wider. At the moment the personnel of the General Prosecutor’s Office are giving testimonies: they tell about what was going on, who gave them orders and who were the elements of the chain. We must document all the evidence and study the documents that we already have at our disposal. This is an irreversible process.
FWM: Does it mean that Vitaliy Kiselev should be set free on the basis of the newly discovered evidence and Gennadiy Tsypkalov rehabilitated posthumously? Then, the charges against Karyakin will also be dropped, and he will be able to return to the Republic and be free from persecution?
– Absolutely, no doubt.
FWM: After the involvement of Plotnitsky’s inner circle in the criminal activity was established, are there any suspicions in regard to the Head of the Republic? Today we watched the press conference that he uploaded to his YouTube channel. What can this mean?
– Unfortunately, the wall that had been erected around the Head has not been totally pulled down yet. They still have influence.
FWM: You mean, he is still under the negative influence?
– I will not comment on that at the moment.
FWM: What could the developments be in the aftermath of this upheaval? What can be expected? The people are anxious: they see a mass of armed men in the streets. What will the future bring, after this cleansing?
– After the counter-terrorism operation is completed, life will be normal gain. The Republic has not been destabilized. Yes, we did fortify the security around the central MI building and several law-enforcing units. That was all, nothing else. And, in fact, out servicemen were absolutely polite and correct. These are temporary measures, and, by the way, the war is not over yet. We will fight it out to the logical end, eradicate the malignant tumour that had grown and found its way into all branches of power in our Republic. The weak spirited and simply mercantile people will come to their senses.
Lugansk administrative building. Photo: Sergey Belous
FWM: Do you mean that not only the external factor, but also greed played its role?
– Yes. The people were urged to misbehave with financial stimuli and commercial preferences. Nevertheless, the Republic is destined to win, there is no doubt. I will not announce the concrete terms, but it will take weeks, not months, to finalize the matters. My staff and I can now see the entire picture, and we have a schedule of our further activities. No one will escape justice.
FWM: Perhaps, this spy ring is responsible for the assassinations of Mozgovoy and other famous commanders? Or are they a separate story?
– It is still too early to talk about that. But we are closing in on it.
FWM: Does it mean, that, possibly, there is a connection?
– We are getting close.
FWM: There were people, who worried that the present-day crisis might evolve into an inner civil war. Do you think it is possible? Or, vice versa, a certain roll back will occur?
– There is no need to even comment on that, as there are open media resources, and everyone can make their conclusion by analysing them. The number of comments in support of our actions is overwhelming. Hair-splitting attempts to make us look bad play no significant role – they are just petty annoyances. My accounts in social networks receive thousands of calls to keep on going, to stop by no means, to win and accomplish what we have started.
FWM: Had the competent bodies of the Russian Federation provided any assistance in discovering the spy ring?
– This is our internal affair. We are, of course, in contact with regard to general criminal cases that is being investigated regarding the genocide of the Donbass population carried out by the Kiev regime. We collect evidence and submit it to the the Investigative Committee.
FWM: Did Moscow react in any way? Perhaps, Russian authorities expressed their support for the operation you are carrying out?
– All I can say is that I do not see it as anything peculiar, as an unusual event. Yes, we are a small republic, but this is the routine work of the law-enforcing system, particularly, the Ministry of the Interior. It is our duty, whatever they say.