Tens of thousands of people came to the streets of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk today to say goodbye to their ‘president’, the pro-Russian separatist leader Aleksander Zachartsjenko.
In an official response from an adviser to President Vladimir Putin, the leader was described as a “brother”.
A crowd of admirers, many in tears, stood ready to make a final greeting to Zachartsjenko’s body, which was killed on Friday in a bomb explosion in a local café.
In addition to the 42-year-old Zachartsjenko five other guests were killed, including a child. In an official statement from the Donetsk news agency, the separatist leader was called a “brother” by Vladislav Soerkov, a prominent adviser to Putin.
Soldiers on the street
According to local authorities, there are about a hundred thousand people on the street, while an AFP correspondent is holding thirty thousand. Public transport in the city is temporarily suspended and armed soldiers patrol the centre to keep order. A period of mourning was announced that will last for three days.
The rebels and the Russian authorities suspect Kiev is behind the explosion, while Ukraine attributes the murder to a “mutual conflict” between insurgents and their Russian financiers.
Since the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army broke out four years ago, more than 10,000 people were killed.
The eastern Ukrainian districts Donetsk and Luhansk, on the border with Russia, split in 2014 from Ukraine in the aftermath of the Crimean crisis.
Source: Belga, Photo credit: Reuters