Evgeniy (22), a Russian man from Murmansk, who has joined pro-Russian supporters In Donetsk in the weeks leading up to the referendum on Crimea, smokes a cigarette standing behind a Lenin statue in Donetsk. He claims there are hundreds of pro-Russian supporters in Donetsk alone, ready to defend the rights of ethnic Russians, even if that means using violence. Evgeniy claims he is a former member of Russian Special Forces, his unit having been deployed in Dagestan.
The Ukranian government accused Russia of sending agitators to the east of Ukraine to spark violence in the run up to the 16 March referendum in Crimea. According to local officials, some 95 % of voters supported union with Russia.
Demonstrations in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Kharkov in the days before the Crimean referendum led to several deaths in violent clashes between pro-EU and pro-Russian supporters.
Donetsk is the largest city of the Donets Basin (Donbas) region, an area that is the centre of Ukraine's coal mining and steel industry. The Donbas region used to be the power base of Viktor Yanukovych, the now deposed former president, who has fled to Russia where he is being supported by the Russian government as the rightful head of state of Ukraine. Lately Pro-russian protests in the eastern part of the country are calling for greater autonomy from Kiev and a referendum on secession from the western part of the country.