Pro-Russian protesters seize govt buildings in Ukraine's Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov
“The people’s militia seized Ukraine’s Security Service in 15 minutes, at 3:32 in the morning,” the activists told the website of the Ukrainian Vesti newspaper.
Currently, the perimeter of the building is being blocked to ensure protection from security forces.
On Sunday, thousands of people waving Russian flags flooded the streets of eastern Ukraine on Sunday. Demonstrators in the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkov seized state offices, while in Donetsk they also demanded an independence referendum.
Over 2,000 people gathered in Lenin Square in the center of
Donetsk to petition for the Berkut officers, who – they believe –
are falsely accused of using fire arms against the rioters during
the Maidan standoff.
The participants in the event called on the “illegal junta in Kiev” to end political repressions and persecution of dissidents, the Itar-Tass news agency reports.
They demanded their right for self-determination to be respected, pushing for a Crimea-style referendum on independence from Ukraine.
The protesters carried Russian national flags, chanted “Russia! Russia!” and displayed banners urging the new Donetsk Region governor, Sergey Taruta, who was recently appointed by Kiev, “to get out.”
An effigy of a Nazi zealot was also burnt in the square, with the
action labeled “an act of annihilation of fascism” by
the protesters in view of neo-Nazi radicals playing a key role in
the Ukrainian coup this February.
The people then moved out towards the regional administration’s headquarters, carrying a giant Russian flag.
The confrontation with the police broke out on the porch of the government building, with the pro-Russian protesters depriving a dozen officers of their riot shields.
The demonstrators used the confiscated shields to make their way through the main entrance of the building and occupied the balcony. The Ukrainian flag in front of the administration was replaced by a Russian standard.
Eventually, police blocked the demonstrators inside.
The violence in Donetsk might’ve been provoked by a banner saying “Goodbye, Russia,” which was placed on the administration, Life-News reports.
The administration headquarters were empty, with only guards inside, as Government officials don’t work on Sundays.
“The situation is pretty tense. The demonstrators are
occupying the city council building and are demanding that an
independence referendum is held to determine the future of the
region of Donetsk,” activist Aleksandr Borodin told RT.
"The protesters are calling on officials to conduct a special session over the referendum situation. If it doesn’t take place, the demonstrators say they will organize an initiative group to settle the issue. The protesters say they will not acknowledge the Kiev-appointed authorities and are also demanding freedom for the recently elected so-called "public governor.”
The events evolved in a similar way in Lugansk where around a
thousand people rallied in front of the local Ukrainian Security
Service (SBU) office.
They demanded the release of protest leader, Aleksandr Kharitonov, who has been in detention since mid-march, as well as 15 pro-Russian activists detained on Saturday.
The people carried Russian flags and chanted “Shame on the SBU!” and “Freedom to political prisoners.”
Up to eight people were injured as demonstrators stormed the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) office, Ukraine’s Channel 5 reported. According to the Russian Spring website, a policeman was injured and hospitalized.
The governor of Lugansk region and the local Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) chief went out to talk to the demonstrators, which resulted in six of the detained anti-Maidan activists being released from custody.
For more on building seizure in Lugansk watch Ruptly video
Violence also broke out in the city of Kharkov where pro-Russian
protesters clashed with alleged activists from the far-right
Right Sector movement.
Fireworks were used as weapons during the scuffle, with several explosions heard. However, there were no reports of injuries as the police managed to quickly separate the sides.
Following the incident, the Maidan activists had to crawl inside the corridor, erected by police for their protection, as the crowd threw foreign objects at them.
Following the rally, around 1,500 pro-Russian activists have made
their way to Kharkov’s regional administration headquarters,
UNIAN news agency reports.
Despite the administration being guarded by police in riot gear, a group of protesters have managed to penetrate the building.
The storm began after the organizers of the protests urged participants “to support Donetsk and Lugansk where government buildings were seized earlier in the day.”
According to anti-Maidan activists, around 10,000 people participated in the protest in Kharkov on Sunday.
Pro-Russian rallies are taking place almost every weekend in
major cities in the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine since the
nationalist coup ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich,
in late February.
One of the first laws the new government revoked was the regional status of the Russian language, which sent a clear message to the people in the country’s east.
The Republic of Crimea refused to recognize the change of power in Kiev and declared its independence from Ukraine, following the March-16 referendum, in which 96.77 percent of the voters chose to rejoin Russia.
Derek Monroe from Foreign Policy in Focus described the situation in Ukraine as politically chaotic.
“There are a lot of political plays taking place in Kiev itself, specifically when it comes to positioning certain groups within the government itself,” Monroe said.
He added that the oligarchs that were places as governors in eastern Ukraine are not very popular with the people. “They have little following in popularity among the people, so the issue is simply to maintain some type of degree of nominal control, where in fact there is very limited control whatsoever.”
“The situation is very fluid, so it is very hard to say where the government itself has particular strong control in the region or not. All the evidence looks like they don’t have much control unfortunately.”
Monroe described the Maidan movement as an “absolute disaster.” He argued that it was the provisional government which was selected, not elected, that made the schisms within Ukrainian society very visible.
“This resulted not only in the loss for Ukraine, but loss of credibility among the people of the East,” he stated.