Russia says talks on Ukraine in 'Normandy format' not possible now - Ifax

Clay Curtis
September 2, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the incident could further destabilize a region that has been one of the major fault lines between the West and Russia.

Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov said that Zakharchenko was his friend and expressed hope that those guilty of his murder will be found and punished.

Russian Federation accused Ukraine of assassinating the 42-year-old, but Kiev said it had nothing to do with the explosion and blamed separatist infighting.

Russian-backed rebels threw off Ukrainian central rule in an armed uprising after pro-Western leaders opposed by Moscow came to power in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in 2014.

In a telegram of condolences released by the Kremlin, Putin praised Zakharchenko as a true popular leader and a patriot.

"I think that this [DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko's assassination] will not break the will of Donbass residents".

Law enforcement officers believe that the organization of the crime could have involved people from the inner circle Zakharchenko, who knew about his travels, the newspaper said. Zakharchenko said it was his ambition to build "a new state" but the DNR remains internationally unrecognised.

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On Ukrainian television, a senior Ukrainian intelligence official, Igor Guskov, confirmed Zakharchenko's death and said that either rival rebels or Russian spy services were behind the deadly blast. A statement from the rebel command said "it was conducted by special operations forces of Ukraine under control of US special services". "This [claim] is either fake or they are preparing for something".

Ukraine's General Staff declined to comment on the matter.

Businessman-turned-warlord Zakharchenko, who commanded rebels fighting Ukrainian government forces in the mining and industrial town of Donetsk, was elected first president of the unrecognised republic in 2014.

Zakharchenko had led Russian-backed insurgents in the rebel region for the last four years. 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. The separatists have also been dogged by internal discord, with several previous leaders being forced to flee the region.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited local sources as saying suspects had been detained, but there was no official confirmation.

In the past, at least five other leading separatist commanders have been killed in unexplained circumstances not connected to front-line combat.

The separatists have blamed Ukraine for previous attacks inside rebel-held territory. The Eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk engaged in open conflict with Kiev since they refused to accept the new government, following the 2014 coup, and established the self-proclaimed republics.

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