Ukraine: pro-Russian protesters declare ultimatum to authorities in Donetsk, urge for referendum
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According to a LifeNews correspondent working on the site, both law enforcers and protesters are behaving calmly.
Activists established their own checkpoint at the entrance to the local administration building and check the documents of those who intend to enter the building. The activists also insist that police officers leave the building.
Over a thousand Donbass Region residents are staying in the square. They are playing the guitars, singing songs and setting up tents.
Several dozen pro-Russian protesters broke through police lines on Sunday and entered the regional administration building in Ukraine's eastern city of Kharkov, an AFP reporter at the scene said. The activists raised a Russian flag over the building after similar protests in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. An AFP reporter said police did not use force against the demonstrators, whose numbers outside the building swelled to about 2,000 people.
The protesters stormed regional government buildings in the industrial hub of Donetsk and security service offices in nearby Lugansk, waving Russian flags and demanding a Crimea-style referendum on joining Russia.
Around 1,500 people protested in Donetsk on Sunday before breaking into the regional administration building, where they hung a Russian flag from a second-floor balcony, a Reuters witness said. Protesters outside cheered and chanted "Russia! Russia!".
In the Lugansk protest, Ukrainian television said three people had been injured. Police could not confirm the report.
Talking to the crowd over a loudspeaker, protest leaders in Donetsk said they wanted regional lawmakers to convene an emergency meeting to discuss a referendum on joining Russia.
Ukraine's parliamentary speaker and interim president Alexander Turchynov is closely following the situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the presidential press service reported. Turchynov cancelled his visit to Lithuania where he was to attend a conference of the European parliaments' speakers, it said. "Turchynov has urgently convened a meeting of the law enforcement ministries and services' officials and will personally control the situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in connection with the separatists' actions," the press serviced said.
Earlier reports said that protestors seized the Donetsk regional administration headquarters and the Lugansk security department building on Sunday.
An investigation has been started into the Donetsk unrest and seizure of the regional administration headquarters on Sunday. "Investigators are to track down the most active participants and initiators of the unrest. Eyewitnesses are being questioned," the regional prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The OstroV website said the pro-Russian demonstrators, who seized the regional administration headquarters, are setting up barricades.
Tyres have been brought to the building, which will be used to seal the windows on the first floor.
There are about 200 protestors inside the building. Those inside have requested that the number of policemen be reduced to eight "to avoid provocations."
They also told activists not to leave or enter the building in groups larger than ten members each.
Patrols have been deployed on each floor.
A resolution was read out to call an emergency session of the Donetsk regional legislature in order to hold a referendum on the Donetsk region's membership of Russia, the website said.
Protestors also warned that if the session is not called before midnight, the "people's mandate" rule will be declared at noon on Monday, the regional legislature will be disbanded and a "people's regional council" will be formed.
Reports said earlier that pro-Russian activists held a demonstration near the Donetsk regional administration headquarters on Sunday and some of them broke into the building, cutting through a police cordon and making their way into the building through a smashed window on the second floor, Interfax reports.
Protesters in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk have seized the building of the regional state administration. The police are preparing to use a water cannon, the Russian news agency
Earlier on Sunday, about 2,000 people gathered in Donetsk’s central Lenin Square in voice their support to the officers of the Berkut riot police who had been detained by the Ukrainian security services on suspicion of manslaughter during the confrontation in Kiev. The current authorities, according to the protesters, were trying to "play a card of repression against dissidents."
Participants in the rally chanted slogans holding Russian flags, St. George Ribbons and flags of pro-Russian public organizations in their hands.
About 500 people from pro-Russian political parties and organizations are holding a rally at Lenin Square in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk this Saturday. Many of the rally's participants are demanding that Donbass (a region in Ukraine, known for its coal production, where Donetsk is one of the largest cities) should become a part of Russia. Simultaneously, two rallies are being held in Kharkov's Liberty Square in support of a referendum on Ukraine's federalization.
Some are carrying Russian white-blue-and-red flags with "The Donetsk Republic" written on them, Interfax-Ukraina news agency reports.
After the rally, the participants plan to march along Artyom Street (Donetsk's central street) to the city council's office, which is not far from Lenin Square.
Demonstrators at a pro-Russian rally in central Kharkov on Sunday called for the establishment of an autonomous republic consisting of southeastern Ukrainian provinces. The meetings in Kharkov were followed by big Ukrainian cities such as Dotetsk, Odessa and Lugansk. The demonstrators urged the southeastern Ukrainian provinces to unite against Kiev.
"We are the successors of the republics of Donetsk-Krovoy Rog and Odessa. We are not the surviving remnants of the Bandera forces. We have been and will be the pillar of our country," Yuri Apukhtin, a Civic Forum leader, told the demonstrators.
He urged the southeastern provinces to unite, create a coordination committee and campaign against the Kiev putschists as a single front.
"We see our place in Ukraine in a historically-shaped southeastern autonomy," Apukhtin said.
An agreement has been reached with the leaders of similar protests in Donetsk and Lugansk to coordinate joint efforts, he said.
The protesters demanded the release of well-known activist Ignat Kromskoy, who had been put under house arrest "on charges of organizing mass riots" for taking part in the March 1 action to drive away maidan supporters who had come from Kiev and other regions and seized the regional administration’s office.
Participants in a similar rally in Luhansk demanded federalization and protested against the suspension of Russian TV channels in the Lugansk region. Several demonstrators wiped their boots on a Ukrainian national flag.
Ukrainian loyalists and pro-Russian residents held several minor rallies, attended by 200-300 participants, in Dnipropetrovsk on Sunday. Pro-Russian demonstrators gathered near the Opera House, as usual, to demand that a referendum be held on Ukraine's membership in the Customs Union.
They also chanted calls to boycott the presidential elections and burned a European Union flag. Others filled Lenin Square to discuss the presidential candidates. Children and adults drew a 10 by 5 meters yellow-and-blue map of Ukraine with Crimea and sang the national anthem. The regional police department reported that the rallies had proceeded without incident.