Rebels parade Ukrainian POWs through shelled city

Captured Ukrainian soldiers were paraded through the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Thursday and forced to kneel before angry locals who spat and pelted them with snowballs and shards of glass. Adding insult to injury for the troops forced to abandon Donetsk airport after months of bloody combat, the pro-Russian authorities marched their prisoners in front of residents shouting "Rats!" and "Bitches!" "They have to be punished, like Saddam Hussein. They are killers. They killed our children," a pensioner who identified herself only as Zina told AFP. Wounded, limping and pale, the Ukrainian soldiers were hauled out of a military truck for the gruesome spectacle in the war-ravaged eastern industrial city. Residents hurled abuse at them as they were taken to the scene of the latest tragedy in the city: a shattered bus stop where a trolleybus full of people was shelled on Thursday, killing 13. They took the brunt of the blame for what the separatists -- and many locals -- have pinned on Ukrainian forces despite the area being far from the frontline. Rebel authorities said the attack was committed by a group of "saboteurs" who have already been arrested. Thursday's attack fuelled the fury of local residents after a rocket attack on an inter-city bus in the Donetsk area killed 13 civilians. The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) had issued an invitation for everyone who felt aggrieved by the latest strike to turn up at the bus stop to "personally look the Ukrainian soldiers in the eye". - 'Troops risked a lynching' - The head of Donetsk rebel-run city administration, Igor Martynov, said if it had not been for their rebel guards, the government troops would simply have been lynched. "In some cases, perhaps one needs to administer public lynchings," he told AFP. "But then we would be criticised for being intolerant and inhumane." Witnesses to the bus attack in a neighbourhood south of the city centre said there is a rebel base nearby which had been hit once before, although Ukraine insists it its artillery cannot reach the area. Donetsk teacher Maksim, 35, told AFP that the area was attacked at around the same time on Wednesday and that two rebels had been killed. "The headquarters of the DNR fighters is now in this academy," he said. "There was heavy fire, we all fell face down and didn't get up for 20 minutes," said 23-year-old Pavel who works at a nearby shop. "It was very creepy that the dead stayed sitting in the trolleybus as if they were alive," he said. Another store employee, Valentina, 25, complained that the violence continued to rage despite international efforts to find peace. "The OSCE comes here and shakes their heads. The journalists write about it, but then everyone leaves while we stay here," she said. Shortly after the bus attack, rebels initially brought just one Ukrainian officer to the scene to confront a swarm of media. In video footage distributed by rebel channels, the sullen-faced man looks at the cameras while the microphones of Russian state channels are shoved in his face and the surrounding crowd shouts abuse. "Why are you quiet?" one journalist demands of the man, whose hands were handcuffed behind his back. The prisoner was one of the officers leading the army's defence of Donetsk airport, once dubbed "cyborgs" by the Ukrainian and Russian media for their seeming invincibility. Ukrainian media identified the prisoner as Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Kuzminykh who was ambushed on Tuesday while trying to help his men at the airport's now abandoned main terminal. Having barely uttered a word, he is then led away by men in balaclavas, past bodies still laying on the pavement. Several people run after him, kicking and pounding him on the back before he is taken away and bundled into an SUV with Russian licence plates.