A few hours ago, the existing head of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic in East Ukraine, Aleksander Borodai, current head of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), and one of the Russian nationals that have taken top roles among the pro-Russia rebels, was said to be quitting his post. Moments ago RIA confirmed that Borodai is indeed out and would be replaced with Alexander Zakharchenko, a native of Donetsk, who heads a heavily armed rebel unit called Oplot. Contrary to some early erroneous speculation that this replacement is a sign of moderation of hostilities, Reuters reports, citing a source, that "He is being named to beef up the military wing."
More from Reuters:
Zakharchenko, in his late 30s, was among the first separatists who occupied the regional administration building in Donetsk when pro-Russian crowds captured it in March following the ousting of a Moscow-allied president in Kiev.
Andrei Purgin, one of the DNR leaders, said that change was being considered but had not been formally approved as yet. One of Zakharchenko's aides said: "It's more likely to happen than not to happen."
It happened. And for those curious for a glimpse into Zakharchenko's state of mind, here is a transcript of PBS Newshour from April.
MARGARET WARNER: To the east, in the provincial capital, Donetsk, masked militants overran more government buildings today. They have already occupied the regional governor’s office for 10 days. This man, unmasked, made their case to reporters in front of the city council building.
ALEXANDER ZAKHARCHENKO, Pro-Russian Activist (through interpreter): Our main demand is to send a message to Ukraine’s parliament demanding to pass a law about local referendums. The second demand is for the city council to help in organizing a local referendum about self-determination of the Donetsk region on May 11.
MARGARET WARNER: His name is Alexander Zakharchenko, and last month, refusing to give his last name, he took us on a tour through Donetsk checkpoints that he and his comrades manned. He said they meant to prevent incursions by supporters of the Kiev government.
ALEXANDER ZAKHARCHENKO (through interpreter): Donetsk is a sleeping giant. Don’t wake it up. If it wakes up, there will be no place for anyone. Kiev cannot threaten our blood ties to Russia. Let us decide our own future.
Hoping for a de-escalation under the new leader? Don't hold your breath.