Russia-Backed Separatist Leader Zakharchenko Killed in Donetsk

Leroy Wright
September 2, 2018

Separ, the Donetsk cafe hit by the explosion, had a separatist-themed decor and camouflage netting hanging from its eaves, recent photographs show.

The rebellion in Donetsk and Luhansk arose soon after pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power amid mass protests in February 2014.

Rebel news agency DAN said the explosion that killed Alexander Zakharchenko, 42, tore through a cafe in the region's principal city.

Zakharchenko, who led the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic since 2014, "received injuries incompatible with life as a result of an explosion in the center of Donetsk", the separatist administration said in a statement.

Instead, after the pro-Western revolution in Kiev in early 2014, Russian Federation provided military and financial support to rebels fighting the new Kiev government in a war that the United Nations said killed some 10,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Fighting fell off significantly after the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in 2015 signed an accord in Minsk, Belarus on ending the conflict.

Ukrainians say Zakharchenko, a former electrician, filled a mostly figurehead position for the Russian security service agencies that manage and finance the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and they attributed his death to infighting in the rebel ranks or a Russian targeted killing.

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Pointing the finger at Ukraine, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Kiev "decided to start a massacre after failing to fulfil their promises on peace". "Having failed to fulfill the promise of peace, apparently they chose to turn to a bloodbath".

Some Ukrainians suspected over the blast were arrested nearby, a rebel security source was quoted as saying.

A Ukrainian security official said the blast was likely the result of the separatists' factional infighting or an operation by Russian special forces.

Aleksandr Zakharchenko was the head of the so-called DNR since November 4, 2014, he survived several assassination attempts. A bombing killed prominent rebel Arsen Pavlov, known as Motorola, in 2016 and a rocket fired into his office killed separatist commander Mikhail Tolstykh, known as Givi, in 2017.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russian Federation of funnelling troops and arms across the border. Russian Federation is believed to have supplied a mobile Buk missile launcher that a team of global investigators alleges shot down a Malaysian passenger jet while flying over rebel territory in 2014, killing all 209 people aboard.

Russian President Vladimir issued a statement that stopped short of directly blaming the Ukrainian government.

Russian-speakers predominate in those regions, and separatist sentiment skyrocketed.

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