Protesters in Russia’s Buddhist republic of Kalmykia took to the streets against the appointment as mayor of a one-time leader of separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

Dmitry Trapeznikov, 38, briefly led the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic in war-torn eastern Ukraine after his predecessor was assassinated last year. On Thursday, the Kalmyk governor announced that he appointed Trapeznikov as the acting head of the regional administrative center of Elista, sparking protests over the weekend.

Around 300 people gathered again in central Elista on Tuesday after authorities ignored their demand to fire Trapeznikov, Interfax reported.

“Trapeznikov is not a native of Kalmykia, he’s not even a citizen of Russia. He’s an outsider,” activist Batyr Boromangnayev was quoted as saying.

Activists had earlier sent a complaint to Russia’s top prosecutor alleging violations of national and local municipal service laws.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday called Trapeznikov’s appointment “exclusively the prerogative of the regional head.” 

Batu Khasikov, a champion kickboxer and the Putin-appointed governor of the republic of Kalmykia, called Trapeznikov’s brief tenure at the helm of separatist-led Donetsk “the best school for an anti-crisis manager.”

Relations between Ukraine and Russia have been rife with tension since protesters in Kiev ousted their Kremlin-backed president in 2014. Russia went on to annex Crimea and foment a conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region that has killed more than 13,000 people.

Trapeznikov joined pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass after managing Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov’s Shakhtar Donetsk football club.