The conflict in eastern Ukraine has been fought in recent days with bullets, bombs and mortars. But Sunday, the weapons of choice were chocolate, caramel and lemon-lime.
What started as a separatist publicity stunt ended in one angry, gooey mess.
First, the PR stunt: The rebel government staged a rally for children in Donetsk’s Lenin Square to highlight what it claims are indiscriminate Ukrainian army attacks on civilians. Under sunny skies, mothers and fathers flocked to the square, kids in tow, to hear speakers rail against the “bloodthirsty Kiev junta.”
At the end, there was a special surprise: A white van pulled up and militants dressed in green camouflage hopped out. But rather than their usual assault rifles, the fighters were bearing candy. Big brown boxes of candy that they said had been plundered from a local warehouse.
Kids squealed with delight. Parents rushed to claim their share. There was applause as happy children walked off bearing bags of sweets wrapped in blue, yellow and red plastic. It seemed the Donetsk People’s Republic, as the separatist movement here is known, had won a victory in the all-important battle for hearts and minds.
But in Ukraine these days, even candy is political.
Some in the crowd noticed that the sweets were made by Roshen, the company owned by the Ukrainian tycoon known as the Chocolate King, Petro Poroshenko. He became the country’s president-elect last month in an overwhelming vote, but rebel supporters here blame him for the violence that has engulfed the country’s southeast.
The mood turned in a flash from exultant to furious. The carnival became a mob.
“It’s a provocation!” some in the crowd began to yell.
“The candy is poisoned!” screamed others.
“No to blood candy!” they chanted. . .