KYIV, Ukraine — It’s kind of like the team getting pumped for the big game — except the "team" is a group of Russian militants and the "big game" is the Moscow-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have died since last spring.
A video posted late Wednesday by a provincial Russian news outlet shows several dozen volunteer fighters in Yekaterinburg, in Russia’s Ural Mountains, performing a Cossack war ritual on a city square before shipping off to fight Ukrainian forces.
And they’re not your average thrill-seeking hooligans, either: The group is reportedly comprised of ex-military men — some battle-hardened — who are part of a local special forces veterans’ organization.
The send-off, which was attended by the fighters’ relatives, also included a group prayer and a formal blessing by a Russian Orthodox priest.
This doesn’t exactly help Moscow’s repeated denials that it’s stoking the well-armed and generously-supplied separatist insurgency.
While Russian officials have admitted the rebel ranks include volunteers from Russia, they’ve vehemently denied the Kremlin has sent regular troops — as many Western and Ukrainian officials claim.
Either way, hosting Cossack-and-camo dance parties downtown isn’t the best way to reassure the international community you’re interested in peace.