• Key players in Ukraine conflict

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    DONETSK, Ukraine: From Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk and Lugansk regions to Kiev, Moscow and the capitals of Western Europe, here are some of the key players in the year-long conflict that has claimed over 6,000 lives in east Ukraine.

    Vladimir Putin
    The Russian president, 62, is accused by Kiev and the West of masterminding the pro-Moscow uprising in east Ukraine and sending in his troops to spearhead the fighting.

    Putin, who says he personally oversaw Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine last March, denies Russia’s army is involved in the conflict but openly gives political support to the separatists.

    The Kremlin strongman insists the conflict is an internal Ukrainian issue and that the rebels are defending themselves against the threat of fascism from Kiev after the ouster of Russian-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych in a US-backed “coup”.

    Kiev claims that one word from Putin can end the turmoil in the east but that Moscow is seeking a frozen conflict that will allow it to hamper Ukraine’s shift towards Europe.

    Petro Poroshenko
    The pro-Western billionaire chocolate tycoon, 49, was elected president of his teetering nation in May 2014 on a pledge that he would stamp out the pro-Russian uprising tearing apart the east in a matter of months.

    But Poroshenko has seen his ill-equipped troops fail to win back the separatist regions and been forced to shake hands with Vladimir Putin on a deal that could give the rebels considerable autonomy.

    The oligarch has often found himself trapped between the demands of hardline nationalists in Kiev to keep on fighting and calls from Ukraine’s financial backers in the West to seek compromise with the Kremlin.

    He portrays the struggle facing his country now as a battle against Russian expansionism that could shape the future of Europe.

    Alexander Zakharchenko
    The former mine electrician, 38, rose from militia commander to become head of the rebel’s self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

    AFP

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