10 Facts About Alexander Zakharchenko, Occupied Donetsk Leader Killed in a Blast
3 September, 2018

News have been coming in thick and fast ever since we learnt about the murder of Alexander Zakharchenko, the self-proclaimed head of the occupied parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Russia and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) were quick to speak about the what they call a “Ukrainian trail.” Four people were detained in relation to the incident.

“They are talking about two special operations teams. And they already talked of the Ukrainian trail. They are looking into 14 people in relation to these groups,” Pavlo Lysiansky, the representative of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote on Facebook on September 1, adding that the four people who were detained admitted to the crimes.

“But all of this is fake, the testimonies were forced out of them. Their aim was to declare their successful end to investigating the case,” he added.

Hromadske has gathered 10 facts about Zakharchenko.

  1. Zakharchenko was born in Donetsk where, after graduating technological college, he went to work in a mine. He later started studying at the Donetsk Law Institute under the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs but was expelled for drinking problems.

  2. According to investigative journalists from Ukrainian news site Insider, Zakharchenko cooperated with Ukraine’s infamous and Kremlin-tied Party of Regions. In 2006 Zakharchenko served as the CEO at Trading House 'Continent LLC, which was part of Donetsk oligarch Rinat Akhmetov’s business empire. Additionally, Zakharchenko co-founded Delta-fort, a company with a wide spectrum of expertise: from publishing books to selling alcohol and tobacco goods. One of Zakharchenko’s partners was Oleh Denysenko, who worked as an aide to the deputy mayor of Donetsk in 2003 and as an aide to the advisor to the vice prime minister of Ukraine in 2004.

  3. According to the medical documents uncovered by Ukrainian media, Zakharchenko was diagnosed with mental illness, which classed him as disabled in Ukraine. The document states that he has “irreversible mental disorder” and that his actions are threatening to the public. He received regular treatment as a day patient at Kharkiv Regional Clinical  Psychiatric Hospital № 3.

  4. In 2013, Zakharchenko joined Kharkiv’s pro-Russian Oplot organization as a head of its Donetsk department.

  5. On April 16, 2014, Zakharchenko headed an armed separatist group in order to seize the Donetsk City Administration. A month later, he was appointed as a military commandant in occupied by Russia-led separatists Donetsk. Soon after he became the “deputy interior minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

  6. In September 2014, Zakharchenko headed the so-called “council of ministers” in the DPR.

  7. After the illegal “election” in DPR, Zakharchenko was announced a winner and handed a certificate granting him the title of the “head of DPR.” He reportedly received 765,000 votes, which amounted to 75%, in that election.

  8. Zakharchenko is known for his aggressive pro-Russian stance. For instance, on January 24, 2015, he announced the start of an offensive on the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. But after it became known that Russian soldiers shelled the residential areas of the eastern part of Mariupol, he took back his words.

  9. Zakharchenko has had numerous criminal proceedings opened against him in Ukraine. In particular, he is suspected of “starting a terrorist organization” and other serious crimes. Zakharchenko is also the main suspect in the case about the death of civilians near the town of Volnovakha as a result of terror act. Ukraine subsequently appealed to Interpol to feature Zakharchenko on their international wanted list.

  10. In May 2016, Ukrainian General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said that a criminal case against Zakharchenko wasn’t transferred to court because the Prosecutor’s Office couldn’t gather enough evidence. On February 8, 2017, Kyiv’s court of appeals permitted detaining Zakharchenko for six months for being suspected of starting a terrorist organization, which never materialized.