Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say a top rebel commander and at least six colleagues have been killed in a car bombing in a self-proclaimed rebel republic near the Russian border.
A press service for the separatist Luhansk territory said Oleksiy Mozgovoy, the commander of a key rebel defense battalion and others died Saturday in the explosion near Alchevsk, about 120 kilometers northeast of Donetsk.
The report said the bombed vehicle was then hit with machine-gun fire from unknown assailants. It then described the attackers as belonging to a sabotage and reconnaissance group. There was no immediate comment on the attack from the Ukrainian government.
There have been several earlier attempts to assassinate Mozgovoy, the leader of the separatists' so-called ghost battalion. In August 2014, Mozgovoy said in an interview that the unit was comprised of 1,000 troops, and would soon include Bulgarian, Slovak and German fighters.
That interview by the separatist website Slavyangrad was conducted in Moscow.
The reported killings come just days after senior U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland called for an immediate end to cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine. Nuland, speaking May 18 in Moscow, said the truce agreed on in February by Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany was being violated on a daily basis.
The Ukraine military says about 90 of its soldiers have been killed in fighting with rebels since the truce was announced.
Nuland's cease-fire call came the same day that Kyiv authorities showed two captured prisoners identified as Russian soldiers accused of killing Ukrainian troops. Moscow later said the two captives had left active military service before they were captured inside Ukrainian territory.