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Separatists In Ukraine's Donetsk Choose Zakharchenko Successor


Denis Pushilin has been selected as the acting head of Donetsk separatists.
Denis Pushilin has been selected as the acting head of Donetsk separatists.

Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the "people's council" of the Russia-backed separatist formation called the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine, has been selected as the acting head of the DNR.

Russian media reported on September 7 that Pushilin, 37, had been selected for the post, which was vacated when Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko was assassinated by a bomb blast in a city café on August 31.

Earlier, self-proclaimed prosecutors in the unrecognized formation annulled the appointment of Dmitry Trapeznikov to the post, saying it could only be filled by "a first deputy prime minister of the DNR."

Pushilin reportedly survived two assassination attempts against him in June 2014.

Also on September 7, the Donetsk separatists' "people's council" designated November 11 as the date for the election of a head of the DNR to replace Pushilin.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on September 7 that neither Kyiv nor the the international community will recognize the elections on the "temporarily occupied territories" in eastern Ukraine.

"If fake 'early elections' are conducted, their outcome will be legally void. They will not create any legal consequences and will not be recognized by Ukraine or the global community."

The ministry also blamed Moscow for promulgating the elections and said they undermine the Minsk agreements.

The move seemed to violate the Minsk accords for regulating the conflict in eastern Ukraine, under which the question of elections in areas controlled by the separatists must be agreed by the tripartite contact group that includes representatives of Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the separatists.

After Zakharchenko's killing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the bombing was "a Ukrainian provocation...obviously aimed at derailing the implementation of the Minsk agreements."

Pushilin said on September 7 that "we have yet to decide on the DNR's representative in Minsk."

"I believe there are lots of worthy people who are ready to represent the DNR on the Minsk platform," he said. "We will make the decision shortly."

Although Russia denies involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Moscow has provided military, economic, and political support to the breakaway movements controlling parts of Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

In November 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) determined the conflict to be "an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation."

More than 10,300 people have been killed since the violence erupted in April 2014, as Russia was fomenting separatism in eastern Ukraine after pro-European protests drove Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

With reporting by Interfax
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