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Russian star provokes anger with Ukraine battle stunt

October 31, 2014

A Russian action star has angered journalists and Ukrainian authorities after he was filmed wearing a press helmet while firing a machine gun alongside Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Mikhail Porechenkov, famed for his roles in war movies, says: “This is a ceasefire?” and chuckles before firing several rounds from a mounted machine gun at Donetsk airport on Thursday, in a video widely circulated by the rebels.

Ukraine’s interior ministry said it had launched criminal proceedings against the actor for “participation in terrorist activity”.

Russia’s Union of Journalists condemned the actor’s “reckless behaviour”, urging him to apologise publicly “to journalists, risking their lives… in an armed conflict zone, for whom the word Press on their gear is often their only flimsy defence from a bullet.”

“If any of the television and press journalists who are working there in those helmets and flak jackets come under fire and die, Porechenkov should know their blood is on his hands,” the union’s chairman Pavel Gusev told Echo of Moscow radio station.

Porechenkov said Friday that the scene in the video was staged with no real bullets fired and that the incident was being blown out of proportion.

He told the TASS news agency that the only reason he was wearing a press helmet was because that was the only gear available.

Porechenkov has starred in a series of patriotic movies about Russia’s armed forces, including “Stormgates” set in Chechnya, and “9th Company” about the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

He was visiting east Ukraine to promote a film where he plays a Soviet-era wrestler.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.