August 6, 2016 / 11:34 AM / 4 years ago

Senior separatist official in east Ukraine wounded in explosion

MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) - The head of the separatist-controlled Luhansk region in east Ukraine was wounded on Saturday after an explosion near his car that regional officials said was an assassination attempt.

Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), attends a news conference in Donetsk February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Igor Plotnitsky, head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), received shrapnel wounds in the blast, a source in the hospital where he was being treated told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

His life was not in danger, according to rebel mouthpiece the Luhansk Information Centre.

The incident follows a sharp increase in violence in east Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting the Kiev government’s forces despite a fragile ceasefire.

“Today at 7:50 an assassination attempt on the head of the LNR was carried out. Facts from the scene speak of the fact that it was an act of terrorism,” regional official Sergei Kozlov told the Luhansk Information Centre.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s presidential administration said Kiev had nothing to do with the blast.

“The Ukrainian side is not involved in this assassination attempt, since it’s absolutely without any logic and does not solve a single question,” Oleksandr Motuzyanik told a news conference.

Motuzyanik said the incident could be the result of a local power struggle.

Civilian casualties from shelling, mines and booby traps in eastern Ukraine are at their highest in a year, the United Nations’ human rights chief said earlier this week.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in the Ukraine conflict, including soldiers, civilians and members of armed groups, since an armed rebellion started in the Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in spring 2014.

Reporting by Alexander Winning in Moscow and Alexei Kalmykov in Kiev; Editing by Gareth Jones

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