Ukraine rebel region's security minister says he is new leader

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The security minister of Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel region of Luhansk said on Friday he was taking over power from regional chief Igor Plotnitsky, who days earlier had said he was facing an attempted armed coup to force him out.

In a video posted on a rebel news portal in Luhansk, the security minister, Leonid Pasechnik, said he was taking over after Plotnitsky resigned for health reasons. But there was no immediate word from Plotnitsky itself.

Luhansk region, along with the neighboring Donetsk region, rebelled against rule from Kiev in 2014 and declared themselves independent. But since then the regions, which are backed by Moscow, have been troubled by infighting that has at times turned violent.

“Today Igor Venediktovich Plotnitsky resigned for health reasons. Multiple war wounds, the effects of blast injuries, took their toll,” Pasechnik said in the video.

“In accordance with his decision, I am taking on the duties of head of the republic until forthcoming elections.”

Earlier this week, armed men in camouflage uniforms blocked access to central streets in the city of Luhansk, capital of the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic of Luhansk.”

Plotnitsky said it was a coup attempt by supporters of Igor Kornet, the rebel region’s interior minister whom he had sacked. But Plotnitsky said he had the situation under control and that the plotters would be dealt with.

Moscow denies having any influence over the rebel regions but multiple separatist leaders have told Reuters Kremlin officials effectively select the rebel leaders. A Kremlin spokesman this week declined to comment on events in Luhansk.

The two self-proclaimed republics are not recognized by Russia or any other nation.

writing by Denis Pinchuk and Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones