Igor Plotnitsky, the separatist leader in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk region, has resigned amid a fierce power struggle among the Russia-backed separatists that has unfolded over the last several days.
The website of the Luhansk-based separatists announced on November 24 that Plotnitsky had resigned for health reasons.
The website also said Leonid Pasechnik, the self-proclaimed security minister of the separatist formation, had been named acting leader "until the next elections."
Shortly afterward, the same website announced that Plotnitsky had been named the separatist's representative to the Minsk process, aimed at resolving the conflict.
On November 21, armed men in unmarked uniforms took up positions in the center of the provincial capital, Luhansk, in what appeared to be part of a power struggle among the separatists.
Shortly after annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014, Moscow began fomenting unrest in parts of eastern Ukraine. Moscow provided political, military, and economic support to separatists who gained control over parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk, sparking a war that has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.
Moscow denies involvement in Ukraine's internal affairs, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
Luhansk has been under the control of Russia-backed separatists since spring 2014. Very few outsiders and journalists have been allowed access since autumn 2015. No independent, objective media exists within the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk areas.
Russian reporters are granted access more frequently, but they often work for Russia's state-run or pro-Kremlin media and provide a restricted view of events.
With reporting by Gazeta.ru, RIA Novosti, and TASS