Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine blame the government for the death of military commander Mikhail "Givi" Tolstykh on Wednesday.
He died when a bomb exploded in his Donetsk office, separatist authorities and a source with ties to its paramilitary ranks told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The Ukrainian Security Service withheld confirmation of Givi's death. The Interfax-Ukraine news agency, citing a journalist's comments, said the attacker used a hand-held grenade launcher.
The government security service, known as SBU, denied its involvement in the incident, suggesting instead that the 36-year-old's own forces killed him.
"I can't confirm this information. We must check it. Ukraine does not control temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions," SBU advisor Yuriy Tandit said Wednesday in a television interview. He added that, if Givi was indeed killed, it is evidence that some within the separatist forces "are being eliminated by certain services beyond the line of demarcation [between the separatists and Ukrainian government troops]."
Reaction from the separatist side instead blamed the Ukrainian government. Separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko said "The Ukrainians cannot defeat us on the battlefield, so they kill us in a malicious way."
Separatist commander Arsen "Motorola" Pavlov died in October 2016 when a bomb exploded in an elevator in his Donetsk apartment building.