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Friday 18 August 2017

Rebel leader in eastern Ukraine killed in office explosion

Mikhail Tolstykh, better known under his nom de guerre Givi, has died (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)
Mikhail Tolstykh, better known under his nom de guerre Givi, has died (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)

A prominent rebel leader in eastern Ukraine has been killed in an explosion in his office.

Mikhail Tolstykh, better known under his nom de guerre Givi, died early on Wednesday morning in what it described as a terrorist attack, the rebels' Donetsk News Agency said.

Several Russian media outlets said 35-year old Mr Tolstykh died in an explosion in his office.

Russian state television showed pictures of firefighters putting out flames in the building.

The footage from the scene showed several rooms in the building gutted from an apparent explosion.

Yuri Tandit, an adviser to the chairman of the Ukrainian Security Service in Kiev, said on the 112 television channel his agency was looking into the reports.

Mr Tolstykh was one of the most recognisable faces in the conflict between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels which has claimed more than 9,800 lives since it began in 2014.

Mr Tolstykh's death follows the assassination of his close associate Arsen Pavlov, also known as Motorola, last year.

Killings of high-profile commanders in Ukraine's Donbass began in May 2015 with the bombing of the charismatic Alexei Mozgovoi.

Rank-and-file separatists and local residents reported an increased Russian influence in the area in summer 2015 as Moscow was apparently trying to rein in the warlords, some of whom seemingly got out of hand with murder and violence targeting civilians.

The very existence of unruly commanders like Givi bolstered the Ukrainian government's long-standing refusal to negotiate with what it regarded as terrorists.

Givi and other warlords who have been killed in the past two years have publicly assaulted prisoners of war and been engaged in what can be classified as war crimes.

While the unruly commanders were dying in car bombings, the leadership of the rebel-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions came to be dominated by bureaucrats with ties to ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, a Donbass native, rather than the commanders who led the uprising.

Unlike the assassinated warlords, the Donetsk bureaucrats are seen as less extreme and more inclined to bargain with Kiev.

AP

Press Association

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