Ukraine rebel commander killed in car blast

12th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

The pro-Russian leader of a rebel militia in eastern Ukraine was killed in a suspected car bombing Saturday in the breakaway eastern region of Lugansk, local media said.

Pavel Dremov, the 39-year-old head of an ethnic Cossack militia of several hundred fighters "was killed along with his driver" when his car exploded at a petrol station in the town of Pervomaisk, the official news agency of the separatist authorities said, blaming "a terrorist act organised by the Ukrainian security forces.

Local authorities said a bomb appeared to have been planted in the car.

A spokesman for Interior Minister Artyom Shevchenko in Kiev said Dremov was on his way to the city of Stakhanov, which is controlled by his militia, to celebrate his recent wedding to a Russian woman.

"His death could be linked to disputes between Cossack leaders and their Russian guardians," the spokesman said on his Facebook page.

Dremov, who went by the nom de guerre "Batia" (father), was at daggers drawn with the head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic, Igor Plotnitsky. In a video message last year addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin he accused Plotnitsky of stealing Russian humanitarian aid and selling coal extracted in the rebel territories to Ukraine.

The Cossacks also oppose Lugansk's consent to a February 2014 ceasefire deal aimed at ending 19 months of fighting between government forces and the rebels in Lugansk and its sister rebel region of Donetsk, branding it a betrayal of local interests.

In May, another rebel leader in Lugansk who was also in dispute with Plotnitsky, Alexei Mozgovoi, was also killed in an attack on his car. Six others also died in that attack.

© 2015 AFP

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