A Kremlin-backed separatist commander in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk has been assassinated, separatists say.

Mikhail Tolstykh, better known by his nom de guerre Givi, died after a bomb exploded in his office in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk just after 6 a.m. local time on Feb. 8, de facto separatist authorities and a source with ties to its military told RFE/RL by phone.

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Kremlin-backed separatist commander Givi physically abuses and torments Ukrainian captives who were apparently taken during the Ukrainian surrender of the Donetsk airport in January 2015. Givi, who at one point brandishes a sword, throws the captives from a truck and onto the ground. He asks if they recognize him (they do), then uses a knife to cut the felt chevrons off their jackets and stuffs them into their mouths.


In May 2015, after nearly six months in captivity, Ukrainian commander Oleg Kuzminykh, who appeared on the video while being paraded through the center of Donetsk and beaten by separatists, was released. Today, on Feb. 8, his brother Serhiy Kuzminykh commented on the reported death of Givi: “It’s all with Givi! It is a pity that so! It would be better to parade him through Khreshchatyk! Among the mothers and wives …” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“They can try me in their ‘courts’ – the Hague, and all that other European bullshit,” says Givi on another video in October.

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