RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
Demonstrators for the fifth time in three months have rallied in Elista, the capital of Russia’s southwestern region of Kalmykia, to protest the appointment of a former leader of Kremlin-backed separatists as the city's acting mayor.
Some 2,000 protesters on November 17 assembled on Victory Square in the city of about 100,000 where police didn't allow them to unfurl banners despite organizers having received a permit for the action.
As in earlier rallies, protesters demanded the resignation of Dmitry Trapeznikov, 38, and for changes to legislation so that the mayor gets elected locally in municipal elections.
Before his appointment on September 26, Trapeznikov had last year briefly ruled territories in Ukraine's Donetsk region that the government in Kyiv doesn't control.
His predecessor in the Donbas, Ukrainian Aleksandr Zakharchenko, was assassinated in August 2018.
Trapeznikov was born in the Russian city of Krasnodar but grew up in the eastern Ukrainian industrial city of Donetsk.
He claims no roots in Kalmykia, a region east of Krasnodar and close to the North Caucasus in which a majority of the population belongs to a Mongol-speaking, predominantly Buddhist ethnic group
Some local residents have rejected Trapeznikov's appointment, often pointing to the destruction that the Donbas war has caused in eastern Ukraine since Moscow-backed separatists took up arms against Kyiv in April 2014.
Others are angered that an outsider who knows little about the region was forced upon them as mayor.
The head of Kalmykia, Batu Khasikov, has defended the Donbas war veteran's appointment, saying he has an abundance of experience, and has called him a "crisis manager."
On the day of Trapeznikov's appointment, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who is reported to have oversight over the Donbas conflict, congratulated him.
“I am glad and proud that our Donetsk cadres are in demand. I wish you success,” said Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov in a congratulatory note.
More than 13,000 people have died in the conflict in Ukraine and 1.5 million more have been uprooted from their homes.
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