Ukraine: Pro-Russian protesters seize security buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk
Pro-Russian protesters have seized state security buildings in eastern Ukraine’s cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, officials say.
Reports say that in Luhansk the protesters have raided the arsenal in the security building. Police have reacted by blocking roads into Luhansk.
On Sunday, activists broke into the regional government buildings in the two cities and also Kharkiv.
Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has called an emergency security meeting.
It comes as Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said a Russian soldier had killed a Ukrainian military officer still loyal to Kiev in eastern Crimea late on Sunday.
Another Ukrainian officer present is reported to have been beaten and detained by Russian troops.
The circumstances of the incident are unclear. The Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted the Defense Ministry as saying the incident happened outside the Ukrainian’s living quarters.
Russian reports said a group of Ukrainian soldiers had been drinking in the town of Novofyodorovka and were on their way home when they passed Russian soldiers guarding an entry to the military base where they previously worked, prompting an argument between the two groups.
Russian news agencies reported that prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the death – one of few fatalities reported since Russia took control of Crimea last month.
Tensions have escalated in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. Russia is consolidating its grip on Crimea, annexed by Moscow last month, and thousands of Russian troops remain massed near the Ukrainian border.
Ukrainian authorities say protesters have now left the government building in Kharkiv.
In Luhansk, on Monday police said “unknown people who are in the building have broken into the building’s arsenal and have seized weapons”.
In Donetsk, groups occupying the provincial government building remain barricaded inside.
President Oleksandr Turchynov cancelled a visit to Lithuania to deal personally with the unfolding events.
Meanwhile Ukraine’s PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk has accused Russia on Monday of sowing unrest in his country’s eastern provinces as a pretext for dispatching troops across the border.
Speaking at an emergency Cabinet meeting, Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russia was behind the seizures of several government buildings in eastern regions that have for weeks seen a spike in secessionist sentiment.
“The plan is to destabilize the situation, the plan is for foreign troops to cross the border and seize the country’s territory, which we will not allow,” he said, adding that people engaged in the unrest have distinct Russian accents.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russian troops remain stationed within 19 miles of the frontier. The city of Luhansk is just 15 miles west of Russia.
Eastern Ukraine was the political heartland of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian president who fled to Russia in February after months of protests.
About half of the region’s residents are ethnic Russians, many of whom believe Ukraine’s acting authorities are extreme Ukrainian nationalists who will oppress Russians – a claim Kiev denies.
Russia has moved large numbers of troops to areas near the Ukrainian border, and has asserted its right to intervene in Ukraine in order to protect the rights of ethnic Russians there.
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