Moscow: The 44th Moscow International Film Festival opened on Friday with reduced foreign representation amid the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Festival chief Nikita Mikhalkov, the Oscar-winning director of ‘Burnt By The Sun, brushed it off, saying, “It doesn’t matter how big the stars come. I’m interested in the people who go because they’re interested in meeting us.
Mikhalkov also praised the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
“These days, the heroes are in Donbas,” he said, referring to the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, two regions Russia recognized as sovereign this year after separatists backed by Russia began fighting the Ukrainian government there in 2014.
“This is where the new elite and new heroes are born. A new world and a new society are being born there. The problem is that, unfortunately, not everyone understands that it’s serious and it’s here to stay,” he said.
The festival opened with the premiere of a highly anticipated Russian historical epic: “Land of Legends”, directed by Anton Megerdichev.
Donbas People’s Militia
Igor Girkin, a Russian citizen from Moscow who commanded the Donbas People’s Militia in Sloviansk, initially denied Russian involvement in the insurgency. He said his unit was formed during the Crimean crisis and that two-thirds of its members were Ukrainian citizens. Girkin also noted that the Sloviansk insurgents had agreed to work with the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic, despite some conflict between insurgent groups.
According to a spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic, the militants that occupied Sloviansk were “an independent group…supporting the Donetsk protest”, while insurgents in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk identified themselves as members of Pavel Gubarev’s Donbas People’s Militia. The group’s forces at Sloviansk included some professional soldiers amongst their ranks and retired veterans, civilians, and volunteers. At the same time, those in Donetsk have been confirmed to include former Berkut special police officers. When asked by The Sunday Telegraph where their weapons had come from, one veteran of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan nodded at the Russian flag flying from the police station and said: “Look at that flag. You know which country that represents. An insurgent commander in Donetsk, Pavel Paramonov, told journalists he was from Tula Oblast in Russia. In Horlivka, police who defected were commanded by a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Russian Army, later identified as Igor Bezler. Former Soviet military veteran Vyacheslav Ponomarev, who declared himself mayor of Sloviansk, said that he appealed to old military friends to take part in the militia: “When I called on my friends, practically all of whom are ex-military, they came to our rescue, not only from Russia but also from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Moldova.