Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko killed in explosion in Ukraine

Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko killed in explosion in Ukraine

The TASS news agency reported on September 1 that Zakharchenko's bodyguard also died as a result of the blast, while a dozen others were injured.

The leader of Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region was killed on Friday in a blast at a cafe in Donetsk.

Heavily armed rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk regions refuse to recognise the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

The explosion in Donetsk killed Alexander Zakharchenko, 42, who referred to himself prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, a largely unrecognized breakaway state supported by Russian Federation.

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.

The Donetsk People's Republic, along with a separatist republic in neighboring Luhansk, has fought Ukrainian forces since 2014, the same year Zakharchenko became DPR's prime minister.

Denis Pushilin, the speaker of the separatists' parliament, blamed Ukraine's forces for the explosion, calling it "the latest aggression from the Ukrainian side", according to DAN.

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. But most of the agreement's provisions remain unfulfilled and clashes break out sporadically.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it had every reason to believe Kiev was responsible for Zakharchenko's death, RIA news agency said.

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He took the reins as the leader of the Donetsk Republic in November 2014 from a number of of Russians, in a bid to show that Ukraine's separatist movement wasn't a Russian-led operation.

She said the Kiev "party of war" was "violating its pledges about peace and has decided on a bloodbath".

Moscow and rebel authorities have pointed the finger at Kiev.

In 2016 and 2017, two separatist field commanders, Arsen Pavlov, who went by the nom de guerre Motorola, and Mikhail Tolstykh, known as Givi, were killed in assassinations.

Russian Federation denies providing troops or equipment to the separatists despite widespread allegations it has done so.

And it has allegedly wounded three people - including the rebel state's finance minister Alexander Timofeev.

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.

Russian-speakers predominate in those regions, and separatist sentiment skyrocketed. Encouraged by Russia's annexation of Crimea, which occurred following Yanukovych's ouster, rebel leaders initially hoped their regions would be absorbed by Russian Federation.

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