MOSCOW (AFP) - Parading Ukrainian prisoners of war through a baying crowd in a rebel-held city was not demeaning, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday.
"I saw images of that parade and I didn't see anything close to what could be considered as humiliating," said Mr Lavrov at a news conference. "Concerning the degrading treatment of war prisoners, let the lawyers handle it," he added.
He was referring to a parade in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Sunday in which 40 or 50 Ukrainian soldiers were made to walk through a jeering crowd in the main square. Furious onlookers shouted "Fascists! Fascists!" and threw empty bottles and rotten food at the captured troops, who walked with heads bowed and hands behind their backs.
It was seen as a riposte to the military parade and Independence Day celebrations held in Kiev earlier in the day, and also appeared to recall the infamous Second World War parade from 1944 when Soviet soldiers marched thousands of defeated German troops through Moscow.
As in 1944, cleaning trucks followed behind the captives in Donetsk spraying water to "cleanse" the streets after they had passed.
After four months of fighting, the daily pummelling of cities by government forces and 2,200 deaths - mostly of civilians - many in the ravaged region saw the treatment of the captives as justified.
"You want to kill our people!" one man in the crowd shouted at the bandaged and clearly terrified detainees.