Stanislav Krasilnikov/SPTNK/Sputnik via AP
Mikhail Filiponenko, the former military head of the self-declared Lunhansk People's Republic, was killed by a car bomb on November 8, 2023.
Kyiv CNN  — 

Ukraine said it was responsible for the assassination of a Russia-backed official with a car bomb in the occupied eastern city of Luhansk on Wednesday.

Mikhail Filiponenko, a lawmaker in the Kremlin-installed assembly, was a former head of the army of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). He had been active in the region’s pro-Russian separatist movement since 2014.

Both Ukrainian and Russian authorities reported Filiponenko had been killed in a car bombing early Wednesday morning. Ukraine’s military intelligence service immediately claimed responsibility and warned others serving “terrorist Russia” would receive similar “retribution.”

“A special operation to eliminate the executioner Filiponenko was implemented together with representatives of the resistance movement,” Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence said on Telegram.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had launched a criminal investigation into the explosion.

“Today in the morning an unidentified explosive device exploded under the bottom of the car, killing Mikhail Filiponenko,” it said on Telegram. “A criminal case has been opened.”

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence said the bomb detonated at 8.40 a.m. Wednesday and confirmed “the so-called deputy of the so-called ‘Supreme Soviet LPR’ from the Russian Liberal Democratic Party Filiponenko Mikhail Yuryevich was eliminated.”

Filiponenko had been “involved in the organization of torture chambers in the occupied territories of Luhansk region, where prisoners of war and civilian hostages were subjected to inhuman torture,” according to the Defense Intelligence.

“Filiponenko personally brutally tortured people,” it said.

Stanislav Krasilnikov/Sputnik/AP
A video showed the scene of the car bomb explosion that killed Filiponenko.

There is growing evidence of Russia’s widespread use of torture against Ukrainians in the territories it has occupied. A report in August found that nearly half of Ukrainians held in Russian detention centers in Kherson were subject to widespread torture including sexual violence. Separately, Ukrainian prosecutors in September opened more than 3,000 criminal cases over Russia’s alleged crimes against children in the country, including torture.

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence posted Filiponenko’s address and warned others: “All addresses of traitors and places of their service to terrorist Russia in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine are known! Defense Intelligence of Ukraine states that all war criminals and collaborators will receive a fair retribution!”

There have been several assassination attempts against Russian-backed officials in occupied Ukraine. The acting interior minister of the self-declared LPR, Igor Kornet, was “severely” wounded in an explosion in May.

Luhansk is one of the four regions that Russia unilaterally annexed in September last year, along with Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Luhansk and Donetsk are home to two Russian-backed breakaway republics where fighting has been ongoing since 2014. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, in the south of Ukraine, have been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after the full-scale invasion began in 2022.

Moscow staged sham elections in all four regions in September, in an attempt to enforce a narrative of Russian legitimacy in the parts of Ukraine it holds. “The election results are already well known,” a resident of Zaporizhzhia told CNN ahead of the votes, which predictably delivered landslide victories for President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.