Ukrainian pro-Russian separatist leader Mikhail “Givi” Tolstykh was assassinated by a bomb blast in his office said rebel authorities. This is the second rebel commander to be killed this way in recent weeks. Ukrainian rebels blamed the Ukrainian government but Kyiv denied any involvement, reports UPI.
“I can’t confirm this information. We must check it. Ukraine does not control temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) advisor Yuriy Tandit said Wednesday in a television interview. He added that, if Givi was indeed killed, it is evidence that some within the separatist forces “are being eliminated by certain services beyond the line of demarcation [between the separatists and Ukrainian government troops].”
Separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko said “The Ukrainians cannot defeat us on the battlefield, so they kill us in a malicious way.”
Tension in the Donbass region of East Ukraine has risen due to the change in power in Washington. Both sides in the conflict are jockeying for position as the new Trump administration prepares to issue policy on the conflict where over 10,000 people have died in the last few years.
Ukraine wants to show the conflict is still a threat to Western interests and they need American and NATO assistance in fighting the Russian-backed forces. Moscow is keeping the war fires burning in the area to possibly use as a bargaining chip to have sanctions against Russia removed, which were imposed after the Russian annexation of Crimea and its support for the militants in Donetsk.