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14 Apr, 2014 09:14

Unrest expands in eastern Ukraine as Kiev launches military op

The anti-Kiev protests have spread further across Ukraine's Donetsk Region with protesters seizing government buildings in several cities despite Kiev’s threats to launch a “full-scale” anti-terrorist operation.

Read RT's live updates on the turmoil in Ukraine

Gorlovka, a city of 250,000 people in eastern Ukraine, has seen one of the fiercest confrontations between police and protesters on Monday.

The situation escalated as protesters gathered outside a local police HQ demanding the ouster of the police chief. They formed a human shield, stopping the traffic in the city center.

According to different estimates, from 150 to 250 anti-government protesters tried to break though security and go inside.

Troops holding the HQ barricaded in as a crowd of several hundred people gathered outside, according to footage from the scene. At one point they opened fire and used stun grenades.

Chanting “Police with people”, they tore down the Ukrainian flag and tried to raise a Russian flag on the entrance to the building. The person trying to set the flag atop the entrance roof was pushed down and broke his arm. The flag was taken down right after it was raised.

The officer, who reportedly pushed the activist, sustained a head injury in a scuffle inside the building and was taken to hospital.

In the afternoon, anti-government protesters seized the building. According to 'News of Donbas' it took them about an hour to break inside. They took the ground floor of the building while police servicemen barricaded in the upper floors.

Anti-government militiamen detain the head of the regional police after storming the regional police building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka (Gorlovka), near Donetsk, on April 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Alexey Kravtsov)

Over two hours protesters seized the whole building and took control over all offices inside, including offices of the top management.

According to reports, few policemen remained in the building as the majority left the building through a gauntlet.

There have been reports that at least two people sustained injuries during the storming of the HQ.

On Monday evening, acting Minister of Internal Affairs posted on his Facebook page that Gorlovka’s police chief Andrey Krishchenkowas was severely beaten as he tore down the Russian flag raised by the protesters. He clarified that police chief was the one who pushed down the protester as he was setting the flag atop of the entrance, as the video above shows.

Anti-government protesters throw stones as they storm a regional police building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka (Gorlovka), near Donetsk, on April 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Alexey Kravtsov)

After taking over control of the main police office, the protest moved and started a mass rally outside Gorlovka’s City Hall, which shortly after they also seized. Protesters replaced Ukrainian flag with a flag of “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

Those protesting outside the City Hall held a vote to replace the mayor. By raising their hands the majority “sacked” the mayor Evgeny Klepa and “appointed” a new one, the head of a local self-defense unit. They handed a Russian flag to the “ousted” Klepa, demanding he make a declaration of loyalty to the people.

Aside from that, protesters also chose a new police chief.

The escalation in Gorlovka coincided with Ukraine’s coup-installed president, Aleksandr Turchinov, signing a decree immediately imposing a special anti-terrorist operation in the east of the country.

Anti-government protester takes part in the storming of regional police building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka (Gorlovka), near Donetsk, on April 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Alexey Kravtsov)

For a third day in a row the coup-appointed government in the Ukrainian capital demanded that the protesters vacate all the taken buildings and lay down arms, threatening to send the army against them, if they don't. However, as the deadline expired on Monday morning, the protesters remained defiant.

In the city of Makeyevka, the City hall remained under protesters’ seizure for the second day despite Kiev’s ultimatum. On Monday, protesters appointed a referendum. As the next step, they formed a public Council tasked with “preparing the plebiscite” as the announcing of the city’s official website reads.

In the city of Zhdanovka anti-government protesters also took control over the City Hall, demanding to become a part of “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

Roughly two dozen pro-federalization protesters seized the building and one of the protesters declared that Zhdanovka was a part of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” local Unian news agency reported. The media report said that no one prevented the seizure. Activists claimed that local government officials went over to the side of pro-federalization supporters.

The Kiev-appointed regional government announced a “special operation regime.” The central government earlier announced an “anti-terrorist operation” in the Donetsk Region, and later called for UN troops to take part.