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'Sit At Home And Embroider' -- Ukrainian Rebel Sparks Debate On Women's Rights

Ukrainian rebel commander Aleksei Mozgovoi (file photo)
Ukrainian rebel commander Aleksei Mozgovoi (file photo)

It appeared to be the first sign of discontent in the packed eastern Ukraine auditorium.

Shortly after the "People's Tribunal of Novorossia," had overwhelmingly approved a death sentence for an alleged rapist, a feared separatist commander opined on the causes of such crimes against women.

In a video of the October event in the Luhansk region city of Alchevsk, Aleksandr Mozgovoi, dressed in a black beret and military fatigues, announces a ban on women going to bars and clubs on pain of arrest and instead commands them to "sit at home and embroider."

Some in the makeshift courtroom can be heard audibly groaning.

"You don't like this, huh?" he asks.

Anastasiya Pyaterikova, a former stripper who has become a prominent face of the Luhansk separatists, does not.

"You’ve gone too far, Mozgovoi!" the "Luhansk Guard" member wrote on VKontakte, a Russian-language social network, on November 5. "Don’t you think you're taking a lot on??? What right have you got to arrest women, and even more so to lay down your orders??? Have you got women trouble? That's how it looks."

Pyaterikova, a leader of the "anti-Maidan" movement, is known both for racy pictures of her pole-dancing online and for her brief flight from Ukraine to Russia when she fell under Kyiv security surveillance earlier this year.

Continuing her attack on Mozgovoi, Pyaterikova wrote: "Got carried away and decided you were almighty? Don't anger honest people. Or else we'll quickly do away with your cult."

'Wasted Chicks In Miniskirts'

But, in a heated debate on a pro-separatist VKontakte forum, some backed the goateed commander, who once dabbled in poetry.

"In wartime, this is exactly the right approach," says Alisa Kudashova. "The city is filled with the brutalized blood of men and yet here wasted chicks in miniskirts will still wander around at night. Protecting women from violence is absolutely right."

Her views were backed by Maksim Gorodetsky, a Donetsk resident, who accused women who disagreed with him of being "feminists" (or worse). "In wartime it's better for young women to stay at home," he wrote.

When Yury Belousov, identified as a resident of Mariupol -- a key port city in southern Ukraine that separatists have threatened to capture from Kyiv -- suggested that the law should be modified so that young married women can go out at night in the company of their men, Gorodetsky fired back with apparent condescension:

"Yury, let me repeat myself: [What you've described] is not a girl, but a woman with her lawful husband!"

However, the men in the conversation who supported Mozgovoi's edict appeared unable to deflect the words of several commenters who pointed out the hypocrisy of preventing only women from frequenting local taverns.

"War doesn't divide men and women," said Tatiana Nikulina, who is identified on VKontakte as a Moscow resident. "I think that if there's a state of war then, in principle, all of the bars should be closed...let's be honest here though -- war is war, but if the city continues to go about its life in spite of everything no one should be poking their noses into the lives of grown adults."

More than 4,000 people have died since April in fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

ALSO READ: Ukraine Separatists Dole Out Summary Justice

Mozgovoi, who has stood by the death sentence handed down at the extrajudicial hearing, has apparently faced enough local pressure to walk back his comments on punishments for women.

"No one is going to be arrested," the apparently offended commander of the Prizrak ("Phantom") battalion told the Govorit Moskva radio station in an interview. "But the situation is beyond comprehension for me. We put the rapists of these very women on trial, but an outcry arises over the fact that a woman is prevented from having an extra shot of vodka."

-- Tom Balmforth, Glenn Kates

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