Ukraine rebels parade ragged captive soldiers
Heads bowed in humiliation, the 40 or 50 ragged prisoners of war shuffled past the baying crowd on the main square of Ukraine's rebel stronghold Donetsk with their hands behind their backs.
“Fascists! Fascists!” chanted hundreds of furious onlookers, hurling empty bottles, rotten food and abuse at the captured government troops.
“Pederasts!” someone screamed. “You are killing children!” yelled another.
The parade of soldiers captured during four months of fighting in the war-town east was a grim parody of a military display held that morning in Kiev to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day.
It also appeared to be a squalid reenactment of an infamous Second World War parade from 1944 when Soviet soldiers marched thousands of defeated German troops through Moscow.
As in 1944, cleaning trucks followed behind the captives in Donetsk spraying water to “cleanse” the streets after they had passed.
“You want to kill our people!” a man in the crowd shouted as the unfortunate detainees, bandaged and scared, trudged by.
Nearby, another person pleaded with the camouflaged rebels to use the Kalashnikovs they were carrying to execute the “sub-humans”.
After some 15 minutes the torment was over and the men were hustled on to two buses by a female fighter with dark glasses and a German shepherd and driven off.
“It was a pleasure to get to see those bastards,” said a woman in her sixties with a pearl necklace.
She is happy that she saw the “creatures”, she said, looking “so unhappy and pale”.
– A Stalinist version –
After four months of fighting, the daily pummelling of cities by government forces and 2,200 deaths — mostly of civilians — many in this ravaged region saw the treatment of the captives as justified.
“I hate them! Look at all the people they kill with their bombs,” said pensioner Svetlana.
Hoarse from shouting, another elderly woman Lyudmila chimed in that “there is no other way to make them understand.”
“This is the 70th anniversary of Stalin’s parade and I am sure there will be one like this in Kiev,” said another pensioner, Vladislav.
Many in the crowd waved separatist flags and took obvious glee in thumbing their noses at Kiev where thousands had gathered in the capital to hear President Petro Poroshenko pledge to defeat the rebellion.
“Poroshenko held a victory parade and we held a Stalinist version,” said Viktor Seredezov, waving his Communist Party membership card.
The rebels also displayed the charred remains of destroyed government military vehicles. Hundreds visited the square during the day, with many posing for photos with rebel fighters.
But not everyone was happy with what they saw.
Lidia Vasilyevna, 80, openly condemned the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic.
“What the hell have they done, these rebels?” she said, adding that she was Ukrainian and proud of it.