Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic, sacked the rebel region's interior minister, sparking infighting between rebel factions
Kiev (AFP) - The leader of a self-proclaimed separatist republic in eastern Ukraine was injured in a suspected car bombing Saturday, local media reported.
Igor Plotnitsky, the head of the Lugansk People's Republic, "was wounded this morning as a result of a powerful explosion that occurred near his car," the official pro-Russian rebels' news agency said.
Plotnitsky, 52, was being treated at a local hospital along with several other people who suffered injuries in the blast in the city of Lugansk, the report said.
The rebels' news agency claimed the explosion was an "attempt on the life" of their leader.
A senior rebel official later told Russia's Interfax news agency that the explosion was a "a terrorist act" but did not go as far as to point the finger of blame at any individual or group.
Plotnitsky did not sustain any life-threatening injuries in the blast and his condition remains stable, the rebel official said.
Ukrainian authorities have already dismissed claims that they could have been behind the blast.
"The Ukrainian side is not involved in this assassination attempt," Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told journalists, adding that the explosion was likely linked to an internal power struggle among rebel leaders.
Plotnitsky, the former commander of a pro-Russian rebel group, was elected in November 2014 to head the Lugansk region in polls denounced by Kiev as a breach of a ceasefire agreement.
Lugansk is the smaller of two breakaway pro-Russian provinces that have been fighting Ukrainian government forces for more than two years.
A suspected car bombing in the Lugansk region in December killed pro-Russian leader Pavel Dremov in what rebels said was a "terrorist act organised by the Ukranian security forces."
In May 2015 Lugansk rebel commander Alexei Mozgovoi was killed in an attack against his vehicle.
More than 9,500 people have been killed since Ukraine's mostly Russian-speaking eastern industrial regions revolted against Kiev's pro-Western government in April 2014.
Kiev and the West have accused Russia of supporting rebels and deploying troops across the border, claims that Moscow denies.