On August 24, 2014, Nazarkin’s patron Muzhenko was himself promoted to the rank of colonel-general. The same day, the catastrophe in Illovaysk unfolded, where Ukrainian forces under his command were surrounded by Russian troops and suffered heavy losses. This year, the Ukrainian Army was footsteps away from repeating the tragedy near Debaltseve. And yet, for now it seems that Muzhenko’s and Nazarkin’s positions within the military are unassailable.
By Oleksandr Gavrylyuk
“Traitors are promoted!” Ukrainian journalist Anna Babinets wrote on her Facebook page on March 12. She was commenting on the defense minister’s order No. 70 (given on February 5, 2015), which appointed Major-General Vyacheslav Nazarkin the first deputy commander of the West Operational Command (Facebook.com/anna.babinets.1, March 12). The appointment was reportedly arranged by Nazarkin’s old-time colleague, current chief of Ukraine’s General Staff, Viktor Muzhenko.
Last year, Babinets’ investigative reports (YouTube, Part One,Part Two, November 28, 2014) for the Slidstvo.info project of Hromadske.tv blamed Nazarkin for collaborating with the enemy while he served as the chief of the Special Operations Department of Ukraine’s General Staff.
According to the journalist, units under Nazarkin’s command were repeatedly ambushed by pro-Kremlin insurgents and Russian soldiers arousing suspicions that he was conspiring with the Russian military to organize attacks on his own troops. On July 29,
2014, agroup of 19 Kirovohrad-based commandos fell into a trap near Snizhne, Donetsk region. Twelve scouts were killed, three were captured and only four managed to escape. The commandos had reportedly been sent to search for a Ukrainian Su-25 pilot allegedly shot down by the pro-Russia forces. However, secret and open sources confirm that this pilot was successfully rescued five days earlier, on July 24. And in fact, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the pilot’s rescue, on July 28.
The ambushed commandos have claimed that enemy forces were told of the Ukrainian scouts’ route. Major-General Nazarkin, who had earlier served in Russia himself, allegedly phoned his brother, the deputy commandant of the Omsk garrison in Russia, every time he deployed Ukrainian troops to Donbas (eastern Ukrainian region encompassing Donetsk and Luhansk provinces). So nearly every special operation involving Nazarkin has ended in death and disaster.
However, when phoned by Babinets, Nazarkin denied having a sibling and abruptly ended the call. Later, the two Nazarkin brothers deleted their common photos from their online social network profiles. Instead, Russian online media outlets Russian Spring and Asia Center depicted the Ukrainian general as the victim of a whispering campaign (Rusvesna.su, August 30, 2014).
Following the Slidstvo.info’s investigation, Nazarkin was dismissed from office, and his former position in the military was given to Colonel Serhiy Kryvonos, the former head of the Airborne Forces Staff and a widely respected officer in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Babinets was invited to testify as a witness before the Military Prosecutor’s Office, while Chief of the General Staff Muzhenko sent Nazarkin away from journalists to the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytsky (Hromadske.tv, September 11, 2014).
Nazarkin and Muzhenko once served together at Zhytomyr, a regional center west of Kyiv. Muzhenko even used to represent the Party of Regions in the regional council. Muzhenko’s affiliation with the ruling party helped him enter the General Staff, and Nazarkin followed him up the military ladder. Indeed, in December 2013, during the EuroMaidan protests in Kyiv and across the country, Nazarkin was named acting head of Special Operations in the Armed Forces (Hromadske.tv, August 27, 2014).
In January 2014, Nazarkin urged Yanukovych to “restore order in the country” despite his colleagues’ refusal to become involved. Nonetheless, following the EuroMaidan Revolution, in March 2014, the general was promoted to department head.
Now, Nazarkin has been offered a new appointment. “Instead of terms of imprisonment, the suspects [including Major-General Nazarkin] in collaborating with enemy are given new opportunities to lead the army,” Babinets exclaims.