The Russian Military Commander Allegedly Leading Ukraine's Separatists

Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Vladimir Putin has attracted considerable attention for comments in Budapest yesterday, February 17, where he urged Ukraine to accept defeat in Debaltseve after losing to “yesterday’s miners and tractor drivers.” Putin's appeal comes as many on the RuNet believe they've found video proof that someone with slightly higher military credentials than a tractor driver is calling the shots in Debaltseve: Deputy Commander of Russia's Ground Forces Aleksandr Lentsov.

Dutch blogger “Dajey Petros,” who runs the popular Ukraine@War blog, seems to be one of the first online to have suggested Lentsov’s involvement in commanding the separatists who laid siege and recently captured Debaltseve. He tweeted on the evening of February 17 saying that Lentsov is “overseeing the takeover of Debaltseve,” comparing a still from a video apparently showing “Lentsov” in Debaltseve to a confirmed photograph of Lentsov in his military uniform. Soon after this tweet, a number of popular Ukrainian and Russian social media users shared his findings, expanding the possible discovery into a full-fledged Internet phenomenon.

In the video “Dajey Petros” cites, the man resembling Lentsov counts off Ukrainian prisoners and later discusses the surrender of the Ukrainian soldiers alongside a rebel commander of the Luhansk People’s Republic. A second video later emerged, supposedly showing “Lentsov” issuing commands on a radio during an attack in or near Debaltseve.

Whether or not this man is actually Lentsov remains unconfirmed, but it's hard to deny the resemblance between the man in the separatist videos and the man who we know to be Lentsov. The OSCE Twitter account does indicate, however, that Lentsov was at the JCCC quarters about 35 miles from Debaltseve, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Soledar, on the night of February 16. OSCE reports also state Lentsov met with Luhansk and Donetsk separatist representatives in Debaltseve in December 2014 in his official capacity as head of the Russian Representation in southeast Ukraine.

Many on the RuNet have already made up their minds about Lentsov, tying what they claim to be his leading role in the Debaltseve battle to Putin’s comments of separatists being “miners and tractor drivers”:

General-Tractor Driver of the Russian Federation Lentsov—also known as “colonel of the LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic] Kiselev,’ who commands “miners” near Debaltseve.

On the left, a “simple miner” and, on the right, Deputy Commander of the Ground Forces of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Lenstov.

Vitaly Kiselev, a commander of the Luhansk People’s Republic, was actually standing next to “Lentsov” during the video, thus the confusion over the name that was “attributed” to Lentsov during the clip.

“Lentsov” on the left, Kiselev on the right in this screenshot posted to LiveJournal.

Some skeptics suggested the Lentsov doppelganger was actually a local man who had risen in the ranks.

Это бывший тракторист, ныне таксист, возит Захарченка.

He used to be a tractor driver, and now he's taxiing around Zakharchenko [head of Donetsk People’s Republic].

Not all of the commentary was focused on jokes about tractor-drivers and miners, as others recalled Lentsov's checkered past as a military commander, calling into question why he in particular was involved in the Ukrainian conflict now:

Сегодня доблестный десантник, товарищ генерал -лейтенант Ленцов стал звездой интернета, хотя его видная фигура уже неоднократно засвечивалась в Украине с начала войны в лугандоне. Ранее этот бравый вояка был отмечен боевыми наградами за утюжение населенных пунктов с мирными жителями Чечни, ну а российская десантура, думается не забыла, что именно Ленцов отказался дать огневую поддержку цинично подставленной 6-ой роте псковских десантников , из-за чего погибло 84 бойца в 2000 году. В общем генерал как раз то что надо для подлой войны.

Today the valiant paratrooper, comrade Lieutenant General Lentsov, became a star of the Internet, even though his prominent figure has popped up in Ukraine since the beginning of the war in Lugandon [Lugansk and Donetsk]. Earlier this brave soldier was honored with military awards for flattening residential neighborhoods in Chechnya, and Russian paratroopers have probably not forgotten that it was Lentsov who refused to provide covering fire for the 6th Pskov paratrooper infantry—a cynical decision that led to the deaths of 84 soldiers in 2000. Basically, this general is just what this vile war needs.

The degree of citizen verification flame wars online was such that Lentsov himself finally spoke to Russia's state channel Pervyy Kanal and denied his presence in Debaltseve on February 16 or 17, claiming “it would have been impossible for him to get into the area” even if he had wanted to. While this might extinguish the fervor of some fact-checkers on social media, others will no doubt take Lentsov's excuses with a grain of salt.

The verification pros on the RuNet, it seems, can be as entrenched in their views as pundits and political commentators on mainstream media. Given that both the Ukrainian and Russian sides have committed fact-checking blunders in the past and have tried to use fake evidence to prove or disprove the presence of Russian military in eastern Ukraine, getting the public to believe any such proof might be a long and thankless battle.


  • […] by Aric Toler · comments (0) Donate · Share this: twitter facebook reddit […]

  • You could have mentioned the fact that the man in the OSCE JCCC videos and the man in the videos with Kiselyev with the POWs in Debaltsevo have different voices. They look alike — the way a lot of old men in this part of the world look alike, perhaps. But they definitely don’t sound alike, and that’s a problem for anyone trying to make this case.

    There’s another obvious point to make which I’m surprised no one else is making. If you were a general in the Russian army, bent on surreptiously taking part in Russia’s “hybrid war” while under cover as an OSCE military monitor in the JCCC, you might don an ushanka and take on a drawl as you wandered around the front.

    But would you then twice speak to the press and make sure you are recorded? I mean, to get really contorted about it, to accept this, you’d have to hypothesize that the evil Kremlin plan here was to have this general don a disguise, sneak into Debaltsevo to oversee the kettling/de-kettling, and then deliberately appear on Russian state TV and the Novorossiya YouTubes to be widely twittered about, just so you can say, “See, we’re everywhere.”

    So, ok, whatever. It’s anathema to crowd-sourcers to ever do something like go to the FBI or some other agency that has machines to do voice analysis, but there are voice analyzers even free online, and you could run the audio through these to see if there is a match of the voices or not.

    I’m sure SunCalc could help here, too, Aric. Also for extra science, geolocate him in the photo where he’s in a cap, too.

    Also, measure the length of the philtrum in all photos. Philtrum measurements can be your best friend in “crowd sourcing.” They differ!

  • Andrew Kauer

    If you would like to be objective you should add that on the published video the representative of Armed Forces of Ukraine Andrew Lischinski confirmed that general Lentsov could not be in Debaltsevo

  • Even if true; So what.

    The true invaders are

    Der Spiegel acknowledged that EU and German leaders were guilty of miscalculations that contributed to the civil war in Ukraine, particularly by under-appreciating the enormous financial costs to Ukraine if it broke its historic ties to Russia.

    In November 2013, Yanukovych learned from experts at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine that the total cost to the country’s economy from severing its business connections to Russia would be around $160 billion, 50 times the $3 billion figure that the EU had estimated, Der Spiegel reported.

    The figure stunned Yanukovych, who pleaded for financial help that the EU couldn’t provide, the magazine said. Western loans would have to come from the International Monetary Fund, which was demanding painful “reforms” of Ukraine’s economy, structural changes that would make the hard lives of average Ukrainians even harder, including raising the price of natural gas by 40 percent and devaluing Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, by 25 percent.

    Ukraine Greets the 19th Century as it Becomes Europe’s Latest Colony

    Read more:

    IMF aid package pushes Ukraine gas prices up 280% ( that is what some Hungarians want?)

    Published time: February 18, 2015 15:31

    • So?

      “Borodai, Bezler, Strelkov.”

      “.,, like many in the region, have deep ties to and affinity for Russia.

      They are veterans of the Soviet, Ukrainian or Russian Armies,


      some have families on the other side of the border.√

      Theirs is a tangled mix of identities and loyalties.”

      [Some are volunteers from Russia , so are some from Spain , France ect.].

      “EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.”

      NYT: Behind the Masks in Ukraine, Many Faces of Rebellion

      Authors: C.J. Chivers, and Noah Sneider

      May 3, 2014

    • I believe the Newrussian Military Commander Strelkov is a Russian citizen.

      AND So What? He volunteer to help defend east Ukrainian land of Newrussia from the Kiev coup junta government of Ukraine, from their military oppression to the east Ukrainian protest who were protesting the Putsch that happened in Kiev! East Ukrainians of Newrussia had to defend themselves from the revolutionist that had overthrown the Kiev Ukrainian government in a Putsch ! that sent military to stop their protests in east Ukraine.

      • Mr.D.Advocate

        Then stop claiming it’s locals in your other posts when all the initial leaders were FSB ‘volunteers’ (plus Cossacks and Chechens) from Moscow and the rest of Russia.

        Just like all the GRU in Ukraine now are ‘vacationing volunteers’ I guess.

        They are being ordered from the Kremlin and people such as RNU Barkashov. There was no fighting nor oppression in east Ukraine until armed men from Russia began ‘volunteering’ there.

        • So? Volunteers are volunteers, no big deal; Not the Russian Army. Kiev junta government after the putsch got volunteers from Georgia and US’s Blackwaters.

          This is the Russian boarder, and some FSBs may be there to see to Russian security on its border activities, that would be normal.

          Oppression in east Ukraine started with the illegal putsch government in Kiev denying east Ukraine their democratic rights by doing the coup. Then sending in the Ukrainian fascist military in to stop protests in east Ukraine from protesting the illegal coup government in Kiev; and Kiev trying to institute their illegal coup rebel government on east Ukraine against their will!

          This is not RT stupid but USA’s New York times

          Behind the Masks in Ukraine, Many Faces of Rebellion

          By C. J. CHIVERS and NOAH SNEIDERMAY 3, 2014

          Newrussia – ” 12th Company appear to be Ukrainians but, like many in the region, have deep ties to and affinity for Russia. They are veterans of the Soviet, Ukrainian or Russian Armies, and some have families on the other side of the border. Theirs is a tangled mix of identities and loyalties.”

          • Mr.D.Advocate

            Good for the NYTimes they were allowed access to a local unit just for show. Shame they weren’t allowed access to travel with all the other units who are RUSSIAN with no ties to the area apart from their inane nationalistic fervor which has been whipped up by Putin to cover his tracks.

            But anyway..back to that Novaya Gazeta dossier…

        • East Ukraine is, or was fighting a counterrevolution to the Right Sector revolution in Kiev.

        • Newrussia fights now for independence because they do not like to be killed by Kiev .

          Petro Poroshenko stupid! Did not start negotiations after elections with east Ukraine’s Newrussia to make amends, and lost Newrussia to his military action on Newrussia !

          He could have preserved Ukraine by going to Newrussia after elections, but NooO0oOo instead he said keep sending in the clowns…. I mean the Ukrainian Army and kill Ukrainian citizens.

          Now they do not want to be Ukrainian citizens, not even as a federation. Putin still pushing them to be a federation but Petro Poroshenko probably will screw it up and lose all of Ukraine.

          • Mr.D.Advocate

            What about all the murders and GRAD shellings being carried out by Putin’s proxy army? Plenty of links to U.N reports into ‘rebel’ atrocities against the ordinary citizens of the places that have been conquered..sorry ‘liberated’..

            ‘NewRussia’. You’re one of those nationalistic useful idiots that Hitler made such good use of too.

  • […] drijven met de Russische Federatie en om de vrede te redden op eigen grondgebied samenwerkt met een Russische kolonel-generaal Lentsov. Maakt deze halfslachtige opstelling Oekraïne geloofwaardig? Ach, het heeft weinig speelruimte, […]

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