Well-known Russian actor Mikhail Porechenkov, who has appeared in a host of spy and action movies, made a high-profile public appearance on Thursday — firing a machine gun with rebel fighters in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.
Video of the event, shot by Novorossia TV, was reportedly filmed at the Donetsk Airport, where Ukrainian military and separatist forces have clashed on different occasions since a ceasefire was declared in September.
The Donetsk People's Republic. Watch the VICE News documentary here.
Video via YouTube/Novorossia TV
Porechenkov, also a director and producer, is seen getting chummy with a group of fighters while posed next to a machine gun. Dressed in a blue vest and helmet with a PRESS label, the triple-threat star talks with an off-camera interviewer before he begins firing the gun.
Ukraine's Security Service said in a statement on Friday that it had "initiated criminal proceedings against" Porechenkov for "participation in the so-called 'DPR' terrorist activities."
This visit comes as the separatist region in eastern Ukraine continues to see violence despite the an attempted ceasefire aimed at calming the deadly civil war that has left more than 2,000 dead since pro-Russia rebel forces seized key government buildings in Donetsk in early April. Fighting went on throughout the ceasefire agreement made in Belarus in late September, with the DPR's Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko officially declared it over on October 20.
Representatives from Kiev, Moscow, and the pro-Russia rebels attended the talks in Minsk and agreed to a nine-point deal on September 19, bolstering an earlier ceasefire that took hold starting on September 5.
The actor wasn't the only Russian to make a high-profile appearance in Ukraine this week. Ria Novosti reported Friday that the first Russian aid convoy had crossed the border and made its way to both Donetsk and Luhansk, also in eastern Ukraine. According to the outlet, the trucks carried aid such as food, medicine, and winter supplies.
Rebels are expected to go forward with holding elections on Sunday in the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. The controversial polling will be recognized by Russia, according to the country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov said the vote "will be important to legitimize the authorities there."
The European Union and United Nations, however, both condemned the elections in separate statements this week, according to Reuters. The EU said the move would inhibit the peace process, while also criticizing Russia's plans to recognize the vote, saying in a statement that it deplored Lavrov's remarks.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the separatist vote would undermine the Minsk Protocol agreements between the rebels, Ukraine, and Russia. He also said the vote was a breach of both the constitution and national law in Ukraine.
'No more talks about ceasefire': Donetsk explosion officially shatters Ukraine's fragile detente. Read more here.
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