An explosion that rocked a cafe in central Donetsk city, in eastern Ukraine, has killed Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and injured several other top officials.
“The head of the DNR, Alenksandr Zakharchenko, has died as a result of a terrorist act,” a spokesperson of the self-proclaimed republic’s administration told journalists, revealing no details of the incident.
“An improvised explosive device was planted inside the café … right near the entrance,” Aleksandr Kazakov, an advisor to the DNR leader, told RT, adding that the killers apparently knew that Zakharchenko would arrive at the café and were “waiting” for him. A state of emergency has been imposed, Kazakov said, adding that borders with both Ukraine and Russia were sealed as the security services are “actively searching for the potential perpetrators.”
One of Zakharchenko’s deputies also sustained severe injuries in the blast while several bodyguards died in the incident, Kazakov said. He added that Zakharchenko died at the scene as well, contrary to the earlier reports suggesting he was injured and succumbed to his wounds in a hospital.
Moscow condemned 42-year-old Zakharchenko’s murder, adding that it could be detrimental to the whole peace process in Ukraine. The death of the DNR leader could have a particularly negative impact on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian Senate’s International Affairs Committee, said.
There is “every reason to believe” that Zakharchenko’s murder was orchestrated by Kiev, which “has repeatedly resorted to such methods to get rid of dissidents and undesirables,” Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.
“Instead of abiding by the Minsk Agreements and seeking ways to resolve the internal [Ukrainian] conflict, the Kiev warmongers opted for a terrorist scenario, thus exacerbating an already tense situation in the region,” she added. The Ukrainian security service, the SBU, has denied involvement in the killing of the DNR head.
Zakharchenko headed the self-proclaimed republic since November 2014 when a crisis broke out in Ukraine following a military coup d’état that ousted a lawfully-elected president. The Eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk engaged in open conflict with Kiev since they refused to accept the new government, following the 2014 coup, and established the self-proclaimed republics. He previously survived several assassination attempts.