Monday, March 14, 2022

HISTORY - UKRAINIAN BORDER CONFLICT 2014: Ukrainian Oligarch Offers Bounty for Capture of Russian 'Saboteurs'

Source: The Guardian

Published: April 17, 2014

By: Alec Luhn

A pro-Kiev oligarch offered a $10,000 (£6,000) bounty on Thursday for the capture of any Russian "saboteur" and promised another half-million hryvnia (£27,000) to the national guardsmen who successfully repelled an attack by pro-Russian militia last night, killing three.

Igor Kolomoisky, an energy tycoon who was appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine last month, also offered rewards for handing in weapons belonging to insurgents: $1,000 for each machine gun turned in to the authorities, $1,500 for every heavy machine gun and $2,000 for a grenade launcher.


Several hundred protesters stormed a Ukrainian national guard base in the eastern port city of Mariupol on Wednesday night, but Ukrainian soldiers turned them back with gunfire, killing three. Ukraine's interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said the attackers had fired at the troops, but protesters said they had been armed only with clubs.

The attack was the first significant defeat for anti-Kiev forces, which have seized government buildings in at least 10 cities in eastern Ukraine over the past two weeks. Soldiers deployed to the Donetsk region as part of an anti-terrorist operation that was announced by Kiev last weekend, have been turned around by angry locals, and militia men captured six infantry fighting vehicles in the city of Kramatorsk on Wednesday. Officials in Kiev and Washington blame the unrest on Russian agents.

The rewards for weapons and saboteurs, which were announced by Kolomoisky's deputy, Boris Filatov, were offered around eastern Ukraine on Thursday afternoon. A local man outside the anti-terrorist operation's staging point at the Kramatorsk airfield, which has been partially blocked off by angry residents, told the Guardian on Thursday that the airfield director had offered $10,000 for a captured Russian agent. He declined to provide his name.

This is not the first time Kolomoisky has put his own money toward the country's defence. Last month, the oligarch spent "several million dollars" buying car batteries for military vehicles. Ukraine's army has suffered years of neglect, with a reported 6,000 battle-ready troops at the moment.

Kolomoisky has a personal feud with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who derided him as a "unique impostor" last month. In return the oligarch called Putin "a schizophrenic, short in stature".

Meanwhile, tensions continued to rise in the east between residents supporting and opposing the new Kiev government. Protesters gathered outside police headquarters in Stakhanov to demand the local police chief's resignation. They attempted to storm the building but were reportedly repelled by residents who formed a human shield in front of the station.


Hundreds gathered in Donetsk to demonstrate for Ukrainian territorial integrity. The rally ended peacefully, unlike similar demonstrations in previous weeks where pro-Russian protesters beat up participants.

Dima Balakai, a student, said he was there to oppose the Russian-backed "bandits" occupying the regional administration building.

"There are no violations against the Russian language here," he said, referring to pro-Russian protesters' tendency to blame Kiev for oppressing Russian speakers. "If I speak Ukrainian at institute, they could soon kick me out." He said he was beaten by a crowd of young men at a similar rally on 4 March.

Also on Thursday evening, activists from the "people's republic" occupying the administration building went to the Donetsk airport to demand negotiations with airport and border control officials. They told the Guardian that they wanted to prevent any military flights from landing, as well as ensure that Russian citizens could arrive freely.

A spokesman for Aeroflot, the Russian airline, said on Thursday that the Ukrainian border service had placed an entry ban on Russian men aged 16 to 60. The Russian foreign ministry said it had requested more information from its Ukrainian counterpart, but journalists at Kiev's Borispol airport reported seeing Russian male passengers turned back.

Donetsk activists said such an entry ban has already effectively been put in place in eastern Ukraine. Dima Prokopshuk said two friends from Russia whom he had invited to his recent wedding were turned back at the Ukrainian border three times even though they tried to enter from Crimea, Belgorod and Rostov-on-Don.

"Some Russians may come here for separatist activities, but others are just coming to visit," Prokopshuk said.

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