Alexei Mozgovoi, a 40-year-old businessman-turned-separatist-commander, was killed in an ambush on a highway in eastern Ukraine, according to a video statement released Sunday by the pro-Russian Prizrak (“Ghost”) battalion Mozgovoi led. CNN reported Sunday a pro-Ukrainian guerrilla group called the Shadows claimed responsibility for the attack against the leader of a separatist group known for its ruthlessness.

“Two guards and Commander Mozgovoi's security chief were in this ambush,” said the pro-separatist news outlet, which added the ambush occurred after the vehicle in which Mozgovoi was riding was hit by an improvised explosive device and then raked with machine-gun fire. “There are reports that three civilians were also killed. The commander had wounds to the head and body.”

Officials of the Luhansk People's Republic, an unrecognized autonomous region in eastern Ukraine, confirmed the vehicle was bombed and fired upon, and that seven people died in the assault, CNN said. The attack took place Saturday on a highway between the cities of Lugansk and Alchevsk.

Mozgovoi was an outspoken critic of the Minsk accord, a packet of measures signed in February that included a ceasefire agreement and a pullout of heavy weapons. The former owner of a construction company took control of Alchevsk after the region erupted into an uprising in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Mozgovoi caught the attention of the global media in October when he presided over a “people’s court” that sentenced an accused rapist to death by asking an audience to raise hands. He then condemned the practice of women going to cafes and pubs.

“А woman should be the guardian of the hearth, the mother,” Mozgovoi said in a statement in Russian to the local public, saying women should drink only on International Women’s Day. “It is time to remember that you are Russian! It is time to get your spirituality back!”