Stalin portraits go on displays in Donetsk.

Portraits of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin emerged on displays in the center of Donetsk, the pro-russian rebel capital of eastern Ukraine.
as the separatist authorities fuel a mood of Soviet nostalgia.

The rebels revive Soviet customs to cement their Moscow-backed rule and fuel a mood of Soviet nostalgia.

The horrors of Stalin's repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivization go unmentioned.

The Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told AFP how he regretted the break-up of the Soviet Union.

"The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services," said the 39-year-old former field commander who prefers to dress in camouflage gear.

"Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us."

The Donetsk rebels' deputy defense minister Eduard Basurin wears a badge with Stalin's profile on his uniform.

This new cult of Stalin revives the memories in Donetsk, a coal-mining city that was formerly known as Stalino.

Such reverence for Stalin contrasts with Ukraine's pro-Western government, which in May passed laws making it illegal to display Soviet symbols, as it does Nazi swastikas.

  Ukraine, War in Ukraine, Russian separatists