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Leader of rebel-held Ukraine region resigns as infighting flares

© AFP/File | Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of one of two Moscow-backed separatist groups in Ukraine, pictured on November 22, resigned in favor of his chief of secret police after a leadership dispute did not go his way


The leader of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine has resigned, the region's news agency said Friday, following a week of tensions between rival factions.

"Igor Plotnitsky has submitted his resignation for health reasons," the head of the region's secret police, Leonid Pasechnik was quoted as saying by the Lugansk Information Center reported.

Pasechnik said he would take control of the region ahead of a new election.

Earlier this week, Plotnitsky had sacked his interior minister and accused him of masterminding a coup attempt.

But the minister, Igor Kornet, refused to step down and armed men loyal to him blockaded part of the Lugansk city centre for two days before dissipating on Thursday.

Russian media reports said Plotnitsky had been unable to regain control of the situation, and had arrived Thursday in Moscow.

Contacted by AFP on Friday, a spokeswoman for Plotnitsky said she was "not in a position to comment on this information."

Lugansk is one of two Ukraine regions held by separatist rebels backed by Moscow, in a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2014.

Ukraine said Friday that five of its soldiers had died during the fighting in the east, while accusing Russia of ramping up its military presence in the region amid squabbles among warring rebel factions.

Separately, the Ukrainian military's anti-terror centre said eight rebels had been killed in the fighting and nine wounded.

The violence came as leaders from the European Union and six former Soviet countries, including Ukraine, were meeting in Brussels for a summit aimed at deepening ties, though Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict conspicuously off the agenda.

© 2017 AFP