KYIV -- Ukraine’s Security Service said its agents have detained a man alleged to be the leader of an intelligence group of Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In a February 16 statement, the security service, known as the SBU, did not identify the man, saying he was from Luhansk, which is part of the territories in eastern Ukraine controlled by separatist groups.
The service also said he had taken part in the seizure of the SBU headquarters in Luhansk in 2014 as conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine, and that he was a commander of the separatists' intelligence and sabotage unit who participated in operations against the Ukrainian armed forces.
The man was detained in Odesa, about 900 kilometers southwest of Luhansk, and he traveled to the Black Sea port “with an intention to carry out intelligence activities related to Ukraine’s military objects," the statement said.
No further details were given and there was no independent confirmation of the arrest.
Since erupting in April 2014, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the Moscow-backed separatists holding parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions has killed more than 13,200 people.
Weeks before fighting broke out, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula after staging a referendum that was deemed illegitimate by more than 100 countries.