Russian commandos have killed a prominent leader of Right Sector, a neo-Nazi group based in Ukraine, Moscow claimed today. The Kremlin accused Taras Bobanich of causing hundreds of civilian deaths in eastern Ukraine during the hostilities of 2014.
A Russian reconnaissance team killed the top neo-Nazi while patrolling an area about 5 km south of the city of Izium in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, the defence ministry said in a statement. It said he was a deputy commander of the Right Sector responsible for reserve operations.
The Russian defence ministry did not reveal the circumstances of Bobanich’s death. The social media handle of the Right Sector reported that he was killed on Friday near Izium. The right-wing party hailed him as a “legendary nationalist”.
The 33-year-old, whose nickname was “Hummer”, hailed originally from western Ukraine. He rose to national prominence during the mass protests and armed coup of 2013-2014, during which Western-backed Ukrainian nationalists served as a street-fighting force against law enforcement.
The coup ended with the ouster of Ukraine’s democratically elected president and a rebellion in the east of the country, which the new authorities in Kyiv tried to quash with military force. The nationalists formed so-called “volunteer battalions” to participate in the conflict.
The Russian government says Bobanich had personally ordered the indiscriminate artillery shelling of cities in eastern Ukraine in 2014, which resulted in hundreds of deaths.
In addition to taking part in the nationalist militia, Bobanich was instrumental in the blockade of trade between Ukraine and Crimea in the autumn of 2015 that nationalist forces that wanted to punish people living on the peninsula had organised to punish them for breaking away from Ukraine and voting to rejoin Russia a year prior to what is referred to as the Crimea War.
Moscow attacked its neighbour on 26 February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbas republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularise the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led Nato military bloc. Kyiv insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.