The Kremlin has blamed the Ukrainian government for the death of Alexander Zakharchenko, 42, the separatist leader of the Russian-controlled part of Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine. He was fatally wounded in a explosion on Aug. 31.

The blast occurred in a Donetsk cafe called Separ (short for separatist) at around 5 p.m. on Aug. 31. According to Russian news site Kommersant, Zakharchenko’s bodyguard was also killed. At least two other people, the so-called “tax minister” of Russian-controlled Donetsk Oblast Aleksey Timofeyev and an unidentified woman, suffered injuries.

The group reportedly gathered that day to mourn Russian singer Iosif Kobzon, who died on Aug. 30 and was a vocal supporter of the Kremlin’s occupation of Donbas.

Confirming Zakharchenko’s death, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement calling on Kyiv “to forgo terrorist methods to resolve Ukraine’s internal issues and not allow for escalation in the Donbas.” In a statement of condolences, Russian President Vladimir Putin also stressed that “those who have chosen the path of terror, violence, and intimidation make a dangerous bet on destabilization in the Donbas.”


The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a criminal case and is investigating the murder of Zakharchenko a terrorist act.

On Sept. 1, Zakharchenko adviser Alexander Kazakov told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that the separatists had arrested several suspects and they implicated the Ukrainian special services in organizing the attack.

Ukraine has denied the allegations. Zakharchenko was killed in a “criminal confrontation” between separatists or liquidated by the Russian special services, Ihor Guskov, a senior official in the Security Service of Ukraine, told Interfax.

The leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have closed the borders of the territory under their control and declared a state of emergency and a three-day mourning period. The unrecognized state has also appointed its “deputy prime-minister,” Dmitry Trapeznikov, as interim leader.


Zakharchenko is by far not the only separatist leader to be killed in a bomb blast in Russian-occupied Donbas. Read the story of past assassinations of Russian-backed separatist leaders.

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