Death of a dream, birth of a legendMay 24, 2015
Novorussian Ghost Brigade commander Alexej Borisovich Mozgovoy was more than a military man, he dreamed of social justice and equality, he wanted to end the oligarchs rule, he fought corruption and pilfering in the area where he was in charge.
On May 23 at 17:30 Alexej Borisovich Mozgovoy was assassinated on the highway Luhansk-Alchevsk near Mikhailovka, some 40 kilometer away from Luhansk, in an ambush by suspected Ukrainian covert commandos.
After the explosion of a mine, the car carrying Mozgovoy was targeted with machine guns. Everyone in the car, Mozgovoy, his press secretary Anna, the driver, and two bodyguards, died on the spot. The assassins also hit three other cars, killing two civilians, including a pregnant woman.
Currently law enforcement authorities of the Lugansk People’s Republic are conducting investigations and operational activities aimed at identifying and apprehending the assassins.
While Revolutionaries Can Be Murdered, You Cannot Kill Ideas
Boris Rozhin / Colonel Cassad
I first learned of the existence of this man in April 2014, when he began appearing on the TV screens as one of the leaders of the uprising in Luhansk. Very quickly two centers of power emerged in Luhansk — the groups of Bolotov and Mozgovoy, who had systemic disagreements. Starting approximately in April, having completed our humanitarian program for Sevastopol, and having received a letter of thanks from Aleksey Chaly, we started reorienting our work toward the Donbass.
Very quickly it became apparent that we would have to choose who to work with — Bolotov or Mozgovoy. We chose Mozgovoy and never regretted it. We were able to establish contact and to begin work, which, however, did not last very long because Mozgovoy soon left Luhansk and went west. After that, in Luhansk we worked with Batman, Leshiy, and a number of other commanders.
In the summer our collaboration resumed, and we transported humanitarian cargo to the cities in Mozgovoy’s jurisdiction. He even visited our warehouses, although for a long time our paths did not cross. I first met him face-to-face in Yalta at a well-known conference, where I was able finally to say hello to a person who in a few short months had became a legend. I became closer acquainted with him in September 2014 when we discussed various projects of humanitarian movements in the Donbass (which later became the foundation of the Novorossia Movement), and I finally was able to speak to the commander of the Prizrak Brigade.
What struck me about Mozgovoy is that he was no hypocrite — he was the same in real life as he was in his public appearances. There is always the possibility that yet another “popular leader” is insincere, wears the mask of an advocate for truth, while in secret desires glory and riches. As a known skeptic, I expected there to be a certain divergence between his media image and the man in real life. Mozgovoy was nothing like that; he was driven by ideas. He chose to fight for his ideals, even though he could have elected to fit into the system he disliked so much and, like the rest, forget about justice, equality, and other lofty goals. In this regard, in his death and in his life, Mozgovoy demonstrated his honesty and his readiness to die for what he believed in.
I still remember his words, that “I went to war without leaving a shred of me behind, cannot deal with the family, while there is war, the brigade is my family.” He truly, to a large degree sacrificed his personal comfort for a common cause, even though, like others, he could have in “that ignominious war” considerably enriched himself, for instance trading in coal. He had a different path, and he walked it from the beginning to the end.
Mozgovoy lived very modestly and mercilessly pursued the local criminal underworld. Unlike Plotnitskiy and Kosytsyn, who became mired in coal-trading scandals, Mozgovoy had no part in corrupt schemes. He was constantly trying to foster grassroots activism, and, having no ability to spread his ideas across the Republic, he tried to do what he could, to change at least something in the world around him.
That is exactly how his image as the local “Che Guevara” was formed — he spoke for the people and tried to be closer to the common folk in words and in deeds. That is why it was so difficult for him to fit into the constantly shifting political landscape of the LPR. That is what he was periodically persecuted for, as the LPR never managed to produce a Fidel to stand by him.
His struggle against the oligarchy, a motif which he hoisted like a banner, drew to him not only a lot of volunteers with left-leaning and communist beliefs, but also brought him a lot of sympathy from people for whom justice and equity are not empty sounds. That is why in his brigade, in addition to local volunteers, there were many so called internationalists from Russia and from abroad. What’s surprising is that, at the same time, under his command there were also units of nationalists. All these people were drawn by the character of Mozgovoy, who was an advocate of truth, which each one of them understood in his own way, but which united all of them for the common good. This was not just a slogan — Mozgovoy set himself apart in such a way that people who joined him truly saw him as a beacon that illuminated the uncertain future of Novorossia. The reactions to his death are a crystal-clear demonstration that the tragic death of the Brigadier who had lost much of his military and political means saddened masses of people of various views and beliefs — as if someone close to them had perished.
It goes without saying that such an inconvenient man was ridiculed in every way — Mozgovoy was the target of mudslinging from various émigré Ukrainians, he was constantly subjected to attacks by the media of the Ukrainian Junta, humanitarian deliveries and supplies of ammunition addressed to him were being blocked, he had been forbidden to hold parades and international fora. There was even an attempt to blame him for the failures of the command during the Debaltsevo operation. In the end, Mozgovoy became, in his own way, a black sheep, because his views diverged quite drastically from the new reality around him.
He could have taken the same way out as Dremov, accepted the banner from and complete subordination to Plotnitskiy, but he could not betray his ideals. Some consider his stance to be quixotic, others stubborn, others foolish. In my opinion, it is people like him, driven by an idea that inspires the masses, who advance history. It was none other than Mozgovoy who was among the revolutionary leaders who lit the fire of Novorossia with the impulse of their struggle, who tore Donbass from Ukraine, and until the last breath did not allow this fire to be extinguished. Without people like this there would have been nothing — only recently, the People’s Republics and Novorossia were nothing but media phantoms. With their life and their death, these people filled the ideas with real content, which cannot simply be shut down, like Tsarev’s bureau. It is because in those days people followed the leaders who carried inside them the flame of a new idea, which became a real alternative to the odious “Ukrainization.”
Of course he made mistakes, such as when he could not push through the idea of unifying the commanders of Novorossiya or when he began to maneuver in relation to the murder of Bednov, when instead his traditional straightforwardness was required. People are not perfect, and Mozgovoy was no exception. But his errors and misconceptions do not outweigh that which he accomplished and what he fought for, sparking the hearts of people with hope in the possibility of change and belief that an equitable and just society is not merely a figure of speech or a propagandistic stamp. After all, it was this faith, which Mozgovoy embodied, that changed the lives of so many people, who left behind their regular lives and came to fight in the far-away Donbass to defend the ideas, which he taught.
Here is this man who, like a comet, flew right in front of us and burned up in the thickness of the atmosphere. But in the course of this brief and impetuous path, he accomplished enough to secure a place in history. Apart from the purely historical role as one of the leaders of the Novorossian revolution, Mozgovoy will for many years remain as a symbol of the struggle for a just and equitable society and the public good.
Cynics will say: “So what? After all, he was murdered and was unable to implement his ideas.” In my opinion, it is enough that he sincerely tried to do it and sacrificed his life in the process. In his brief, but rich and eventful life there was more meaning than in the lives of those who spend their years wasting away in consumerist intoxication, lying on the couch and watching yet another faraway or, finally, proximate war on the television.
His life and, in particular, his death, will undoubtedly contribute to his further glorification and mythologization. After all, if even the late Alexander Bednov is, despite definite concerns, ranked by the public opinion among the most iconic heroes of Novorossia, then Mozgovoy is simply doomed to posthumous perpetuation as a symbol and a myth.
In recent history, Mozgovoy’s closest analogue is Thomas Sankara, whose aphorism was adopted as the title of this note. They had similar aspirations and suffered a similar fate. When Sankara was being murdered, the perpetrators expected that he, like many other African fighters for justice, would disappear from the horizon of history just like a short ripple that shook the world of exploitation and profit. But time demonstrated that people like that depart to immortality, becoming moral and ethical compasses for the future generations. They represent the will of humanity to justice and equity and inspire more and more new fighters for justice to take the place of those who fell in their struggle for it.
Rest in peace, Aleksej Borisovich. I did not know you well as a person, but to the end of my days I will take pride in having been acquainted with you.
Interview with Alexej Mozgovoy
News from Novorussia
Against Oligarchs and False Politicians
Report from a war zone
Ukrainian unknowns and uncertainties Part 2
There is no meltdown
Shattered Dreams of Victory (and Prosperity)
The following text is an interview with Aleksej Mozgovoy in Alchevsk on April 9, where he is very critical about the current LPR leadership.
Orhan Dzhemal: I am very interested in the political situation in the LPR, because the war continues, but there is much talk of the post-war reconstruction of the state. As far as I understand, it is in the Lugansk Republic that the complexity of this process is demonstrated most clearly.
Aleksej Mozgovoy: It’s too early yet to talk of post-war reconstruction. The fact that there is a cease-fire does not mean that there is peace. Almost all our attention is still focused on the frontline.
Orhan Dzhemal: It seems that many of the recent heroes of the LPR, well-known field commanders, have had difficulties with the authorities of the Republic.
Aleksej Mozgovoy: They do not have difficulties with the leadership itself, but with the policy pursued by the leadership.
Orhan Dzhemal: And what is that policy?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Well, let’s say that it does not answer to the demands that the people put forward in March and April of last year. Everybody then declared loud and clear that the most important thing was the welfare of the people. But what do we see in fact? All that remains of the people is the ‘P’ in the title LPR.
In my opinion, if we are to build something new, and even more so if we are to build, let us say, a part of new Russia, of New Russ, of Novorussia, then we simply must get away from all previous methods of government, all previous ways of relating to the people, and create something new. First of all, in my view, there should be total transparency in all matters from the start. Transparency and clarity for every citizen. If an official takes a step, it should be clear why he took it. If a decision is made, even if it is not discussed with the people, at least it should be arrived at in a transparent manner. To be clear — does it serve the interests of the people or just the interests of the bureaucrats?
Orhan Dzhemal: What is happening in fact?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: In fact, we have reverted to our old ways. Corruption is rampant. The use of administrative resources by the head of the Republic is the same as it was with the governor of the previous Luhansk region. The television and the press operate only to display how much we love our leader. Just like before.
Orhan Dzhemal: Are there problems between your military unit and the command?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: At the beginning they tried to disband us. Here is what they told us: “We will integrate you into the LPR Army, but only as an addition to units already formed.” That is, their object was to disperse us, and merge us into existing units so that we ceased to exist.
Orhan Dzhemal: But will you now be integrated in the emerging structure?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: We are integrated. We exist as a brigade. We obey the supreme commander of the LPR troops. But I want to say something about the total blockade of the humanitarian aid which our subdivision was receiving. With this, we provided food for the local population; we had four canteens, where people came to eat: from mines, from factories, from small villages, kindergartens, schools. We shared all this aid with the civilian population. All this is also blocked.
Orhan Dzhemal: What do you mean “blocked”?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: It is now impossible to bring in humanitarian aid.
Orhan Dzhemal: But the aid was collected in Russia, loaded up, and delivered to you. Where have obstacles arisen?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Everywhere. Including with the Russian Federation customs. You probably heard about the last load. In Yekaterinburg, a complete unit of volunteers collected and brought with them a cargo of humanitarian aid, including for the civilian population. They brought with them their belongings, brought food, medicines and equipment for hospitals. The cargo was turned back at customs because it exceeded the maximum permitted tonnage. Five tons were stopped at the border. How can you impose a weight restriction on humanitarian aid, if it is humanitarian? Basically, cutting us off from supplies makes us dependent. This is one of the control mechanisms.
Orhan Dzhemal: Is there a central supply of humanitarian aid? Does anything get to you from that?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Each time that we see in the media how pompously the convoys arrive, but not once have I seen how this aid is distributed. Why are the same cameras not recording the distribution of this aid in remote villages?
Orhan Dzhemal: And does it ever reach these remote villages?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: I do not know. I am not going to speculate. We were recently in the town of Frunze talking with this grandfather who had worked for forty years on the railway. He has received nothing for nine months.
Orhan Dzhemal: Do you attribute this to bureaucratic disorganization or simply to corruption?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: War is such an interesting thing: some die, others reap huge profits. Humanitarian aid — this is one of the sources of such income. The more there is, the more there is to steal.
Orhan Dzhemal: Do you know who has harnessed these streams and who is profiteering from them?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: There has been no investigation, therefore there is nothing I can prove. Without being able to prove who is guilty, my accusations would be just rumors and gossip. But, even though I cannot name specific names, the responsibility must be borne by the administration of our leader and the government.
Orhan Dzhemal: What formula would you propose for the distribution of humanitarian aid?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: The way we did it from the beginning — targeting the aid. A children’s hospital or some other institution would provide us with a list of what they needed. We passed on the list to the humanitarian organizations, they sent what was on the list, and we delivered the cargo — it was filmed — to those who needed it.
Orhan Dzhemal: Do you want private organizations to work directly with you?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: I do not want anything, and I am certainly making no demands. I simply see the difference between the deliveries made by the state, which in fact no one controls, and those made by private providers, who do not allow their cargo to vanish into thin air.
Orhan Dzhemal: There are many large enterprises in this territory. Are you a supporter of nationalization?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Nationalization should not be undertaken lightly. Look, most of the shares in the Alchevsk metallurgical plant are currently owned by one of the Moscow banks, the rest by people from Dnepropetrovsk, not just Kolomoisky. But you cannot touch the factory now, because it is linked to Europe. If we act hastily, the factory will be left without a market for its products. To regain the same position in the market would be very difficult. And 15,000 people work there. Some people wanted to proceed with nationalization, but we explained to them that it was not possible to do so. You can nationalize, but who is going to need it if there is no external market? We need to tread very carefully.
Orhan Dzhemal: The Verkhovna Rada has adopted a law on the occupied territories. Your attitude to this law?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: To be honest, I have not even examined it. I cannot take seriously any documents adopted by the Rada and the government in Kiev.
Orhan Dzhemal: Can you avoid a situation whereby elections here will be held according to Ukrainian laws?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: At the moment we live under the old Ukrainian laws. Nothing has changed, therefore nothing would surprise me. Many former employees and police officers have returned to their positions without any verification. I understand that we need experts, but accepting thus everyone who yesterday served in Severodonetsk (where the regional administration is now based ‒auth.) and today works for us…
Orhan Dzhemal: Do you accept such people with you in Alchevsk?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Yes, we do not interfere in this matter, we are a military unit. I have always said that civilian life should be managed by someone in civilian clothes.
Orhan Dzhemal: Do they get into senior positions?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Well, if you are talking of military posts, many who once wore a sergeant’s uniform are now colonels.
Orhan Dzhemal: Are elections going to be held in Alchevsk?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: They are planned. This is the position taken by our government. At this point everything is in deadlock. It turns out that the date of elections can be declared by the head of the Republic at short notice, even a few hours before the election. Who has time to prepare?
Orhan Dzhemal: Are you going to stay in the military, or do you intend take part in politics?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: Of course I will.
Orhan Dzhemal: How?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: That is a secret. You will have to wait and see!
Orhan Dzhemal: What would be for you a victory in this civil war?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: In this war there will be no victory.
Orhan Dzhemal: When will it end?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: It will end when the majority of the people will understand that they are being exploited for the benefit of others. On both sides. Nothing new. War has always been, and always will be, a business. The greatest victory will be if we create a government that thinks of the people. Not victory in the war, but victory over ourselves, over our own minds.
Orhan Dzhemal: Are the people already realizing that something is amiss?
Aleksej Mozgovoy: That something is not right, yes. Not as much as we would wish. But sooner or later the two opposing sides will find a common language, and only then will they talk a little bit differently with each other. Only then can we create something that is truly popular. As long as people are distracted with “suicide.” we can build nothing here. Those who were conducting black affairs behind our backs will continue to do so.
According to TASS Alexej Mozgovoy was killed in a special mission of Ukraine’s Teni (Shadows) commandos, as the detachment’s head Alexander Gladky disclosed on Sunday. Gladky wrote in Facebook “we fled immediately.”
There are many unanswered questions about Mozgovoy’s death:
It seems strange that he should have been killed at almost exactly the same spot where a previous attempt was made to kill him just a few weeks ago in March.
The fact that Mozgovoy’s murderers appear to have laid an ambush for him suggests either a degree of inside knowledge or — if they were following him — a breakdown in his security arrangements, which is even more alarming.
There are also some troubling indications from things Mozgovoy is reported to have said that he might have had some foreknowledge or premonition that he was going to be killed. One should be careful about this and not make assumptions that derive from rumors or speculation. However this is bound to cause concern, which makes it all the more important to establish the truth in this case.
This is a situation which calls for a thorough professional investigation of a sort that the authorities of the Lugansk People’s Republic are not capable of carrying out by themselves. The only entity that might be able to conduct such an investigation and solve the murder mystery is Russia.