Angry residents in Slovyansk have protested after overnight shelling – reportedly by Ukrainian government forces surrounding the eastern town – badly damaged several houses.
The people confronted the self-proclaimed mayor. Some had backed him recently. But now they are demanding that he end hostilities.
Wearing a pistol on his belt and flanked by a bodyguard toting a Kalashnikov assault rifle, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov responded emotionally.
“I expected and needed your support in this. And now you only care about your own matters. I’ll say it again, I will never leave you,” he told the gathering.
The separatist leader promised compensation for the damage. Despite the destruction there were no reports of casualties, although elsewhere four people were wounded in the night fighting, according to Russian media.
“Peace,” said Lina Sydorenko, a resident. “We want peace. They must stop this banditry, so that there can be peace. How much longer can this go on? We had a united country and now look what’s happened. We became enemies. When will our government be able to unite the country? And if they can’t achieve that, they’ll have to let the east go.”
Another woman, Kateryna Gerorovna, sobbed as she blamed Ukraine’s acting president and prime minister in Kyiv, alleging their forces were responsible.
“They started shooting and bombing. And that’s all. It happened just before I came home,” she said.
More exchanges of fire between government forces and separatists were reported in the outskirts of Slovyansk on Tuesday.
Kyiv has suspended pension payments to the town, citing the threat from rebels who have attacked cash deliveries.
Slovyansk has been at the epicentre of the rebellion against Kyiv’s rule.
But local anger at the fighting appears to be growing.