Ukraine probes Russian defence minister's links to rebels

22nd July 2014, Comments 0 comments

Kiev said Tuesday that it has launched a criminal investigation against Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and a shadowy Muscovite millionaire for organising and financing "illegal armed groups" in Ukraine.

The investigation comes just over a month after Russia launched an investigation of its own against Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and a billionaire local governor over the killings of civilians and journalists in conflict-torn east Ukraine.

Avakov, who on Tuesday announced the move against the two Russians, said in a statement that Shoigu is suspected of having organised the "illegal armed groups on Ukrainian territory".

Russian nationalist Konstantin Malofeev -- an enigmatic investment banker with ties to some of the leading rebels fighting in Ukraine -- was accused of having financed the pro-Moscow militias.

Avakov added that insurgents "commanded by Russian citizens, systematically carried out armed attacks against" Ukrainian authorities, "causing loss of life, destruction and other serious consequences".

Kiev believes that the Russians have been arming rebels who have seized parts of its eastern industrial heartland since they launched their uprising three months ago.

Ukraine also accuses Moscow of being complicit in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in rebel territory on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board.

© 2014 AFP

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