MOSCOW/DONETSK: A native of eastern Ukraine on Thursday replaced a Russian as leader of separatists in their stronghold of Donetsk, in a move aimed at blunting Western accusations the rebellion is being run by Moscow.
Aleksander Borodai, one of several Russian nationals in top roles among the pro-Moscow rebels as the head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), told a news conference he would now serve as deputy to the new leader.
The new head of the separatist rebels, Alexander Zakharchenko, was sitting to his left in a conference room in what used to be the Donetsk regional administration building until it was turned the rebels’ headquarters. “After all, I am a native of Moscow and I think the DNR should be run by a person who is body and soul of Donbass,” Borodai said, referring to the wider Donetsk region.
Zakharchenko, sporting a green camouflage jacket, said he would go on fighting for the region’s independence from Kiev. A native of Donetsk in his late 30s, Zakharchenko commands a heavily armed rebel unit called Oplot, which has taken part in some of the fiercest battles and has its origins in a martial arts club. He was among the first separatists to occupy the regional administration building in Donetsk after pro-Russian crowds captured it in March following the ousting of a Moscow-allied president in Kiev the previous month.
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