Tue Feb 23, 2016 2:41PM
Pro-Russian forces carry out a Ukrainian prisoner exchange in war-torn near Marinka village, Donetsk region on February 20, 2016.  (AFP photo)
Pro-Russian forces carry out a Ukrainian prisoner exchange in war-torn near Marinka village, Donetsk region on February 20, 2016. (AFP photo)

A mayor has been shot dead in a Kiev government-controlled town in the troubled Russian-speaking eastern region of Ukraine, local police sources say.

Local police spokeswoman Tetyana Pogukai said on Tuesday that the assassination took place in Starobilsk town, which is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of the northeastern city of Lugansk.

She added that Volodymyr Zhyvaga, 44, was found lying unconscious in the back yard of the local town council following the assault.

The mayor was rushed to a nearby hospital with fatal injuries to the head and neck. However, he died on the way to the hospital, police said.

The police sources said they had no immediate suspects in the murder case. But they indicated that the murder may have been politically motivated, a result of a domestic dispute, or related to the mayor's business activities.

The internationally-brokered peace deal, which was signed between Kiev and the pro-Russia representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk regions in February 2015, has been violated on an almost daily basis.

People examine a crater after shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region, on February 10, 2015. (AFP photo)

According to the United Nations, over 9,000 people have lost their lives and some 20,000 have been injured in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which erupted when Kiev launched military operations in April 2014 to crush pro-Russia protests there.

Kiev and its allies, including the United States, have accused Russia of arming and supporting the pro-Russia forces fighting in eastern Ukraine for greater autonomy.

Senior officials in Moscow have rejected the accusations as groundless. Russia says any kind of aid and support given to the Russian-speaking fighters in eastern Ukraine is of a humanitarian nature.