Protesters, who stand against new Kiev and support Russian president Vladimir Putin, seized state buildings in three significant east Ukrainian cities on Sunday, causing anger from the side of the pro-European government claiming that Russian leader was orchestrating “separatist disorder”.
Pro-Russian supporters stormed regional government buildings in the sity of Donetsk and hit state offices in Luhansk, situated not far from, waving Russian flags and demanding a referendum, similar to that of Crimea.
Protesters later seized the regional administrative building in Kharkiv, second largest city of the country, local mass media report. All three cities lie close to Ukraine’s border with Russia.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov vowed to restore order in eastern Ukraine only in a peaceful way and also accused Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovich, whose political base was in Donetsk, of conspiring with Putin to trigger tensions.
“Around 1,000 people took part (in the storming of the building), mostly young people with their faces covered,” said Ihor Dyomin, a spokesman for Donetsk local police. “Around 100 people are now inside the building and are barricading the building,” he added.
“Putin and Yanukovich ordered and paid for the latest wave of separatist disorder in the east of the country. The people who have gathered are not many but they are very aggressive,” Avakov said in a statement on his Facebook page.
“The situation will come back under control without bloodshed. That is the order to law enforcement officers, it’s true. But the truth is that no one will peacefully tolerate the lawlessness of provocateurs.”
Ukranian president in action, Oleksander Turchinov, has already organised an emergency meeting of security chiefs in the capital of the country and took personal control of the situation, the parliamentary press service revealed to reporters.
Mainly Russian-speaking eastern part of the country has seen strengthening tensions since Victor Yanukovich left the country in February and the advent of an interim government in Kiev that backs closer ties with the European Union.
“Russia has branded the new government illegitimate and has annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, citing threats to its Russian-speaking majority – a move that has sparked the biggest standoff between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War,” explains Reuters.
More than 1,500 people went to the streets in Donetsk this weekend before intruding the regional administration building, chanting “Russia! Russia!” and waving the flags, witnesses claim.
In the Luhansk protest, Ukrainian television said three people had been injured. Police could not confirm the report.
Talking to the crowd from the stage, protest leaders in Donetsk urged regional lawmakers to convene an emergency meeting to discuss a vote on joining Russia like the one in Ukraine’s Crimea region that led to its annexation.
“Deputies of the regional council should convene before midnight and take the decision to carry out a referendum,” one of the protest leaders said, without identifying himself.
“We don’t want to join the EU, we don’t want to join NATO. We want our children to live in peace,” an unnamed woman told Ukraine’s Channel Five in Luhansk.