Moscow: Russia said Wednesday it was investigating Ukraine`s interior minister and a local governor over the killings of civilians and journalists in the conflict-torn east of the ex-Soviet country.
"A criminal probe was started against Igor Kolomoisky and Arsen Avakov," the Moscow-based Investigative Committee said, referring to the billionaire governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region and Ukraine`s interior minister.
The announcement appeared to be a largely symbolic ratcheting up of tensions in the war of words between Moscow and Kiev with Russia having no clear legal jurisdiction in Ukraine.
But investigators added that they planned to put the two men on the international wanted list over crimes "against the peace and safety of humanity."
The opening of the probe comes after two members of a Russian television crew were killed in a mortar attack near the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on Tuesday.
Their deaths led to a huge outpouring of anger in Russia, leading Russian strongman President Vladimir Putin to demand that his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko take measures to protect reporters covering the Ukraine crisis.
The Investigative Committee accused Avakov, Kolomoisky and Ukraine`s top military brass of spearheading military operations in a string of separatist-held eastern Ukrainian cities and towns including Donetsk and Slavyansk.
As a result of the military operations that saw the use of Grad multiple rocket launcher systems and missiles, more than 100 peaceful civilians were killed including two Russian journalists, a prominent rights activist who worked with the media and an Italian photographer, investigators said.
More than 200 peaceful civilians were wounded and some 500 homes were either fully or partially destroyed or burned down, the statement said.
"We have enough reasons to believe that it`s Avakov and Kolomoisky with their dirty money who are behind all of that," the Investigative Committee said.
"The fact that Kolomoisky and Avakov are literally drowning the country in the blood of their own people is being understood even by the military who are refusing to implement criminal orders and shoot at defenceless people and children and sometimes take the side of the rebels."
At least 320 people -- including some 125 Ukrainian serviceman -- are estimated to have been killed since the government launched a military operation against separatists in eastern Ukraine in mid-April.
The rhetoric of Russia`s hugely powerful Investigative Committee has grown increasingly belligerent over the past days, with investigators likening Ukrainian authorities to a "serial rapist" after the death of two Russian journalists was confirmed.
"The habits of the so-called Ukrainian authorities resemble the mindset of a serial rapist. First they simply rape their victims but sooner or later begin to kill them," investigators said in a separate statement late Tuesday.