MOSCOW Aug 13 Separatists in eastern Ukraine on
Wednesday denied a report that rebel commander Igor Strelkov had
been wounded in fighting, the Russian state newspaper
Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported.
"It's not the first time such rumours appear, and they've
never been confirmed. Everything is fine with Igor Strelkov,"
the paper quoted Fyodor Berezin, the deputy defence minister of
the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), as saying.
A small separatist Internet news outlet Novorossiya, quoting
an unnamed source, earlier said Strelkov, whose real name is
Igor Girkin, had been badly wounded.
Reuters could not independently confirm the report, and an
aide to Strelkov declined to comment, saying: "No comments. I
have clear instructions."
The Itar-Tass news agency quoted another separatist leader
as saying he could not rule out the report.
"I don't have specific information, but it is likely true,"
said Andrei Purgin, the DNR's deputy prime minister. "There is
heavy fighting in that area."
A serious injury to one of the rebels' chief commanders
would be a further blow to the separatists, who have abandoned a
string of towns in eastern Ukraine to government forces in
Kiev says rebel leaders, some of whom are Russian and who
want union with Russia, are receiving arms from Moscow, an
allegation the Kremlin denies.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow
and Thomas Grove in Donetsk; editing by Andrew Roche)