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The ‘Goblin’ as hero

The editor of the region’s main pro-Russian newspaper, Crimean Truth, also accused Aksyonov of being in a criminal gang.

Simferopol |
March 11, 2014 3:58:52 am

Two weeks ago, Sergey Aksyonov was the leader of a tiny pro-Russia political party that could barely summon 4 per cent of the votes in Crimea. He was also a little-known businessman with a murky past and a nickname — ‘Goblin’ — left over from the days when criminal gangs flourished here after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Today, Aksyonov is the prime minister of Crimea’s regional government and the public face of Russia’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula. He is, by all appearances, a man placed in power by Moscow.

He also leads a brand-new army, 30 men carrying AK-47s, who are still learning to march in formation. “Commander!” they greeted him Saturday, when they were sworn into service in a Simferopol park. Speaking at the ceremony, the former semi-professional boxer said that while Crimea’s March 16 referendum would make the peninsula a part of Russia, he holds no grudge against Ukraine. He is, he insisted, a peacemaker.

But the people of Simferopol remember Aksyonov by his 1990s name Goblin. Andriy Senchenko, now a member of Ukraine’s Batkivshchyna party, which was at the forefront of the Kiev protests that led last month to the downfall of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, described Aksyonov as a “brigade leader” in a gang that was often involved in extortion rackets.

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The editor of the region’s main pro-Russian newspaper, Crimean Truth, also accused Aksyonov of being in a criminal gang.

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