Ukraine alleges Putin behind occupations
Pro-Russian protesters storm state buildings fuelling ‘separatist disorder’
Pro-Russian protesters storm the regional administrative building in Kharkiv last night. Photograph: Reuters
Pro-Russian protesters seized state buildings in three east Ukrainian cities, triggering accusations from the pro-European government in Kiev that Russian president Vladimir Putin was orchestrating “separatist disorder”.
The protesters stormed regional government buildings in the industrial hub of Donetsk and security service offices in nearby Luhansk, waving Russian flags and demanding a Crimea-style referendum on joining Russia.
Protesters also later seized the regional administrative building in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, Interfax news agency reported. All three cities lie close to Ukraine’s border with Russia.
Interior minister Arsen Avakov vowed to restore order in eastern Ukraine without using violence and also accused Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, whose political base was in Donetsk, of conspiring with Mr Putin to fuel tensions.
“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,” Mr 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.”
Acting president Oleksander Turchinov called an emergency meeting of security chiefs in Kiev and took personal control of the situation, the parliamentary press service said.
Mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine has seen a sharp rise in tensions since Mr Yanukovich’s overthrow 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.
About 1,500 people protested in Donetsk yesterday before breaking into the regional administration building, where they hung a Russian flag from a balcony, a Reuters witness said. Protesters outside cheered and chanted “Russia! Russia!” In the Luhansk protest, Ukrainian television claimed that three people had been injured.
Talking to the crowd over a loudspeaker, protest leaders in Donetsk said they wanted 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. – (Reuters )