Donetsk rebel leader appeals for Russian aid

The rebel republic has seen some leadership changes recently.

Donetsk: The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People`s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said on Friday that the inhabitants desperately need Russian humanitarian aid and accused Ukraine of deliberately stalling its arrival.

"At the moment, the Donetsk people`s republic has a very bad humanitarian situation and the help that Russia is sending us and we have still not received, we just need it like air," Zakharchenko said at a briefing in Donetsk.

The aid is needed by "the wounded, the sick, the military," said the steely-eyed leader in military khakis who took the post of "prime-minister" last week after the former rebel leader Alexander Borodai quit.

The rebel republic has seen some leadership changes recently, with even the influential commander Igor Strelkov suddenly disappearing from top ranks. 

Zakharchenko insisted that Strelkov had fulfilled his role of creating a Donetsk republic army and is now on holiday after being handed a new role in the Novorossiya union of Donetsk and Lugansk republics.

"He has taken a month`s holiday. That`s not surprising because three months of fighting in Slavyansk under ceaseless bombardment, not every person can endure that," Zakharchenko said.

He said Ukraine is stalling the delivery of Russian aid by "dreaming up" various pretexts and legal obstacles.

"As of today it is already critical," he said of the aid parked in nearly 300 trucks 30 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.

"It`s not just the Ukrainian army that doesn`t want the human aid to get through and stops it doing that... but the Ukrainian government that with all possible obstacles, legal or otherwise, simply prevents it, legally prevents its passing."

"It would be better to pay taxes for it. I understand that they need money," he said drily.

He said that rebels had launched a counter-advance against the Ukrainian army and cleared a corridor between Donetsk and Lugansk, the two rebel hubs.

"During three days of fighting, we destroyed a lot of military hardware of the enemy and its soldiers. A corridor between the republics has been restored," he said, adding that the rebels were next trying to lift the blockade of Lugansk.

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