Protesters waving Russian flags seized the regional administrative building in Kharkiv, the third state premises in eastern Ukraine to be occupied by pro-Russian demonstrators on Sunday, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Earlier in the day, similar groups had seized the regional administrative building in Donetsk and the offices of the state security services in Lugansk, demanding that regional lawmakers carry out a referendum on joining Russia.
Ukraine accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the seizures.
The protests provided another reminder to the untested pro-Western leaders in Kiev of the monumental task facing them after their February 22 overthrow of then-president Viktor Yanukovich.
The unrest comes with Ukraine’s borders surrounded by Russian troops who had earlier seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. The Ukrainian economy is also in tatters after decades of mismanagement and government theft.
Several eastern regions now want to stage referendums on joining Kremlin rule when Ukraine holds snap presidential polls on May 25. Both election frontrunners want to tie the vast country’s future to Europe and break its historic dependence on Russia.
Clashes in Kharkiv
Several dozen people entered the government seat in the eastern city of Kharkiv after breaking through police lines.They thrust several Russian flags out of windows as a crowd of about 2,000 outside cheered and chanted “The police are with the people”.
FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reported a violent incident earlier in the day when pro-Russian protesters surrounded a group of pro-European supporters leaving a protest. The pro-Russians mistook the latter for members of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector group. Cragg reported that the pro-Russians used tear gas against the surrounded pro-Europeans before police managed to secure their release. Cragg reported many were injured and three were taken to hospital.
Violent protests sweep Donetsk
The day’s most violent protest saw nearly 100 activists move away from a crowd of 2,000 rallying on the main city square of Donetsk to storm and occupy the government seat where they raised the Russian flag.
They threw firecrackers at about 200 riot police and ripped away several of their shields before raising the Russian flag above the 11-story building.
Some in the bustling city of one million chanted “Give us a referendum” and “NATO go home”.
Lugansk demonstrators seek activists’ release
Police in the eastern city of Lugansk fired tear gas at a few hundred protesters who broke into the local security service building in order to win the release of 15 pro-Russian activists arrested earlier in the week.
Unconfirmed reports from pro-Russian media sources said the activists had managed to secure the release of six of the 15 alleged Lugansk coup plotters and had barricaded themselves inside the building.
The region’s security service had accused the group of planning to seize the main administration building on Thursday with “the use of arms and explosives”.
Local news reports said two police officers were hurt in the melee.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-06