A Russian flag flies over the town hall in Slavyansk
April 14, 2014. Slavyansk in the Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine.
Streets leading to the city centre are criss-crossed with barricades, Russian flags tucked into them. At 4 o’clock, a rally begins in the central square, in front of the City Council building. The flag of the Russian Federation is hoisted on the flagpole next to the flag of the Donetsk Oblast. A crowd of residents chants: ROSSIJA! ROSSIJA!
Two loudspeakers mounted on the roof of a car amplify the speaker’s voice. He speaks about the creation of the National Guard of the Republic of Donetsk.
The building is guarded by men in paramilitary uniforms, armed with antique versions of the Kalashnikov. Some of them carry anti-tank projectile launchers on their backs. The wide variety of weapons brandished and the absence of identical uniforms imply that they are not regular army soldiers. They do not want to reveal which army they serve in. Asked where they got their weapons from, one answers “from our grandparents”. Some of the weapons are 1960’s models.
The participants of the rally vote a few times by show of hands. The offers made by the speaker are approved each time by a majority of the participants, at least on the face of it. They adopt an act on the appointment of a temporary Executive Council. They also approve the composition of the Council. Young girls and middle-aged women approach the soldiers standing in front of the building: they all want to have a photograph taken with a soldier.