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A Neo-nazi warlord responsible for a string of vicious atrocities was killed in fighting near the eastern Ukrainian town of Volnovakha yesterday.
Vladimir Zhoga is the third senior Russian officer to lose his life in the invasion of Ukraine in as many days as the stalled Russian advance has resulted in desperate attempts by commanders to restore momentum.
One military source said: “They are trying to impose their personality on the battlefield and putting themselves at personal risk.”
The news of Zhoga’s death was announced via Telegram by pro-Russian separatist Denis Pushilin.
Pushilin claimed that Zhoga had been shot while attempting to evacuate civilians from Volnovakha – a small city in the contested region of Donetsk where Russian troops violated a ceasefire agreement on Saturday.
According to Pushilin, Zhoga “died like a hero”.
He commanded the Sparta Battalion, who began fighting against the Ukrainian government several years before the start of the Russian invasion, and is thought to have been responsible for a number of vicious atrocities, including the murder of several Ukrainian prisoners of war.
In April 2015, Amnesty International Denis Krivosheev blamed the group's then leader Arsen Pavlov for the torture and “execution-style killings” of at least four captured Ukrainian soldiers.
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Amnesty said at the time: “Summary killings are a war crime, plain and simple. The leaders of the self-styled ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in eastern Ukraine must send their members a clear message: those who fight with them or on their behalf must respect the laws of war.
"They must urgently remove from their ranks anyone suspected of responsibility for ordering or committing serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, and fully cooperate with any independent investigation.”
Zhoga took control of the group in 2016, after Pavlov, known by the call-sign Motorola, was killed by a bomb allegedly planted by Ukrainian loyalists.
On taking command he said:“It will be me, his First Deputy Commander. Motorola always introduced me as his Deputy that is why we unanimously decided to continue his work together, but under my leadership,”
Zhoga was born Zhoga Vladimir Artemovich, in the Russian-majority Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, Donestk, in 1993.
Zhoga joined the Sparta Battalion in 2014, just as Russian separatists in Slovyansk tried to break away from Ukraine, resulting in a bloody siege that left over 100 dead and saw several journalists and police officers abducted at gunpoint.
It was during that period of unrest that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile launched by Russian separatists from the Donetsk region, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew.
- Russia Ukraine war
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