The funeral of a pro-Russian rebel leader killed in an explosion last week drew vast crowds of mourners in eastern Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk Region on Sunday, Sept. 2.
Alexander Zakharchenko was fatally injured in an explosion in a cafe in Donetsk on Friday. Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of his murder, while Kyiv blamed his death on separatist infighting.
The official media outlet of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said 200,000 people had gathered for Zakharchenko’s funeral, the republic’s leader since 2014. Reuters was unable to verify that figure.
Footage showed long lines of mourners, many carrying red carnations, lining up to pay their respects outside the city’s main opera theater, where Zakharchenko’s coffin stood.
“I am here because I really respected him. He did everything for the people. … A good person is gone,” Anna, a member of the crowd, said through tears.
“He was everything to us. He left fighting for his country. There are no words,” said Natalya, a mourner.
His coffin, draped in the separatist region’s flag and the flag of the Russian Airborne Troops, a division of Russia’s armed forces, was carried out of the theater to silent applause.
It was placed on the gun-carriage of a large artillery weapon, which was then towed past the crowds by a truck.
“I didn’t know him personally but he was a leader to all of us,” Katya, a young woman attending the funeral, said.
At least five other leading separatist commanders have been killed in unexplained circumstances not connected to front-line combat since the conflict started in 2014, when Russian-backed rebels threw off Ukrainian central rule in an armed uprising.
A shaky internationally brokered cease-fire has been in force since 2015, halting large-scale fighting, but frequent outbreaks of shooting on the front line between the separatists and Ukrainian forces continue.
From The Epoch Times