Russian journalist Semen Novoprudsky has said public reaction of Russia's top officials to the assassination of the so-called "leader of 'Donetsk People's Republic'," Alexander Zakharchenko, showed how much this incident plays into Moscow's hands, since the last signatory of the second package of Minsk agreements from the so-called people's republics had been removed.

As Novoprudsky wrote for the Novoe Vremya weekly, Russia is openly preparing grounds for bargaining with the West on dividing Ukraine (or even for a hot war if Moscow feels that Washington and Brussels are not ready to tighten sanctions, and vice versa if sanctions are tightened and it is necessary to distract Russians from their consequences).

In any case, Moscow is probing increasingly frankly the possibility of quitting Minsk agreements, Novoprudsky said.

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The journalist recalled Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voicing the Kremlin's demonstrative public reaction to Zakharchenko's murder (of course, as always, conveying Putin's point of view): "This will hinder Minsk agreements on Donbas." Lavrov also said it was impossible to hold further meetings in the Normandy format in the "current situation."

"The circle closes: a month and a half ago, Moscow was trying to persuade the U.S. in dividing Ukraine bypassing the Minsk agreements. And now they turned out to be the only interested party to the conflict, calling Zakharchenko's murder an obstacle to the Minsk agreements. That's despite the fact that Moscow constantly promotes 'DPR' as an actor in the 'civil war,' which Putin says is ongoing in Ukraine. But if the 'DPR' is the subject to the conflict, how can the murder of its head hinder Minsk agreements?" Novoprudsky said.

"It is clear that Zakharchenko was Moscow's absolute puppet, but he was at least formally promoted through 'elections'. Now both 'people's republics' are ruled by temporary governors appointed by the Kremlin, and there is no one left among them who signed the Minsk agreements," the journalist said.