Friday, January 16, 2015

Opportunists take advantage of east Ukraine leadership confusion | Al Jazeera America (3)

PEREVALSK, Ukraine — The armed camouflaged men and women immediately stand to attention when Ataman Nikolai Kozitsyn enters the salmon-hued hall of the Soviet-era House of Culture he uses as one of his three offices.

At just over 6 feet 2 inches tall with a protruding belly, Kozitsyn commands a presence, and his Cossack soldiers stare straight ahead as he addresses one of his female troops.

“You’re too skinny,” he boomed. He then turned to the young woman’s husband, who stood by his side with an automatic weapon slung over his shoulder. “Aren’t you feeding her enough?”

Kozitsyn bellowed a laugh, and the dozen or so in the room laughed nervously. Most of them wore the traditional Cossack fighter’s cap, black fur with a red center. Their hats were no match for Kozitsyn’s headwear, which was about three times the height and twice the circumference.

He has been the de facto ruler of this small mining city about 25 miles southwest of the rebel-held city of Luhansk since July. He and his Cossack fighters from Russia’s Don River basin came to the aid of the pro-Russian separatists when the Ukrainian forces fighting the rebels controlling the area began to gain ground.

In a matter of months, he has turned Perevalsk into his fief. He said he has brought stability back to a city that had been ransacked by a corrupt government “calling itself Ukraine” and took credit for getting the city’s main services back up and running, including water, heat and electricity.

Complete story at - Opportunists take advantage of east Ukraine leadership confusion | Al Jazeera America


Nikolai Kozitsyn took control of the small city of Perevalsk, east Ukraine, in July. He walked through its streets on Nov. 15, 2014. Dmitry Beliakov for Al Jazeera America

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