Behind the Masks in Ukraine, Many Faces of Rebellion

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — The rebel leader spread a topographic map in front of a closed grocery store here as a Ukrainian military helicopter flew past a nearby hill. Ukrainian troops had just seized positions along a river, about a mile and a half away.

The commander thought they might advance.

He issued orders with the authority of a man who had seen many battles. “Go down to the bridge and set up the snipers,” the leader, who gave only a first name, Yuri, said to a former Ukrainian paratrooper, who jogged away.

Yuri commands the 12th Company, part of the self-proclaimed People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a previously unknown and often masked rebel force that since early April has seized government buildings in eastern Ukraine and, until Saturday, held prisoner a team of European military observers it accused of being NATO spies.

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