Igor Bezler is a pro-Russian leader and a direct participant in the pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine and reportedly the Crimean crisis in 2014. He is also known to be at the helm of the group that imposed control over the Horlivka police station.
Igor Bezler was born in 1965 in the Crimean town of Simferopol in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine. He was a student at the Dzerzhinsky Military Academy from 1994 to 1997. Although not Russian by origin, he claims to be Russian. In actual fact, his mother is ethnic Ukrainian and his father is ethnic German, so the German spelling of his last name was originally Besler. Many of his relations were among oppressed Russian Germans of Crimea in Soviet times and had to leave Crimea for Kazakhstan to escape political harassment. According to the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Bezler was closely related to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces and served in special purpose corps. At the time of his retirement from the GRU in 2002 he was a lieutenant colonel. He left for Ukraine the same year, but is claimed to still have been contracted by Russian intelligence agents and acted on their instructions in order to assist subversive operations against Ukrainian authorities.
In February 2014, following an order from the GRU, Bezler was allegedly a party to acts of violence in Crimea, including the takeover of military installations and government facilities. In April 2014 he joined a diversion group to capture the SBU headquarters in Donetsk Oblast. It is also the capturing of the Horlivka district department of the MVS (Ministry of Internal Affairs) on a YouTube video that followed on April 14, 2014 that made him notorious. In that video a Russian lieutenant colonel that was later identified as Bezler addressed the local police officers to introduce a new police chief. Bezler and Igor Strelkov were charged with the orchestration of a Horlivka deputy’s murder Volodymyr Rybak, but did not admit to his complicity.
Neither did he acknowledge his alleged involvement in the crash of a Malaysian Boeing 777-200 MH17 on July 17, 2014. There are a few facts of equivocal nature which may easily be misinterpreted. A couple of minutes before the crash an intelligencer nicknamed "Naimanets" gave him a call to inform him of a "high flying bird" approaching. Twenty minutes after the plane had crashed Bezler was caught by the SBU reporting the bringing down of an airplane to Vasily Geranin, an intelligence department colonel at the general headquarters of the Russian armed forces. Bezler’s explanation was that the aircraft mentioned was a Ukrainian plane brought down by the militia the day before. Foreign reporters trying to investigate the Malaysian MН17 crash were not lucky to obtain any information from Bezler. According to a Guardian reporter Shaun Walker, their attempt to record the conversation was fiercely opposed by Bezler who ordered his men to seize and burn their notebooks and destroy any compromising material they found. He threatened he would not hesitate for a minute to have them all executed right away as spies.
Bezler’s violent and unpredictable nature has won him a reputation of a loose cannon even among other insurgents who spoke of him in hushed voices. In his interview to Walker he bragged he made short work of captured combatants. According to Bezler, they kept Ukrainian soldiers as prisoners, but showed no pity to members of volunteer battalions whom he regarded as fascists. They questioned them and shot them on the spot in reprisal for their mercilessness to his people. He swore that he would rather "hang those fuckers from lampposts" than stand upon ceremony with those who "chop off their [his men’s] heads and shit in the helmets".
In November 2014 there were reports of Bezler’s death in some Ukrainian media, induced by his presumptive disappearance in Donbass. There was even a hypothesis of an assassination plot by Russian special services. The rumors ceased not until the end of November after a video was posted on YouTube showing Bezler was alive and kicking and stayed in Poltava Oblast, Ukraine.
Since December 19, 2014 Bezler has been listed among the Specially Designated Nationals by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control. The fact means that no American citizen is allowed to have any business with him until they are granted a special license.