Government buildings in two other Russian-speaking cities, Donetsk
and Luhansk, have been occupied by separatists since last weekend,
in what the new pro-Europe leadership in Kiev says is part of a plan
drawn up by the Kremlin to dismember Ukraine.
Russia annexed Ukraine's Russian-majority Crimea region last month
after pro-Europe protesters toppled Kiev's Kremlin-backed president.
Moscow denies having any designs on other regions of Ukraine but
says Russian speakers there must be protected from possible
persecution by the interim authorities in Kiev.
"Armed men in camouflage uniforms seized the police department in
Slaviansk. The response will be very tough because there is a
difference between protesters and terrorists," Interior Minister
Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook.
A local police spokesman said it estimated 15-20 armed men had taken
over the building in Slaviansk, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, about
150 km (93 miles) from the border with Russia.
Police were talking to the attackers, but they had not yet made any
specific demands, he said.
Masked men in mismatched camouflage clothes armed with pistols and
rifles stood near the building, a Reuters witness said. They were
wearing orange and black ribbons, a symbol of the Soviet victory in
World War Two that has been adopted by pro-Russian separatists in
A few hundred people gathered outside the three-storey building in a
residential district near the centre of Slaviansk, a city of more
than 100,000 inhabitants. Some in the crowd helped to build
barricades from tires.
The militants in the Donetsk local government building and a
security services building in Luhansk are pressing for a referendum
on the future of the region.
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The Ukrainian government says the takeovers could be part of a plan
similar to that used by Russia to annex Crimea — the seizure of
government buildings and military facilities was followed by a
referendum on independence.
"I will say it again: those who want dialogue... will have dialogue
and the search for solutions. Those who are up in arms, set fire to
buildings, shoot at people, police, terrorize with bats and masks,
these people will face an appropriate response," Avakov said in his
On Friday, a deadline set by the Kiev authorities for the protesters
to end their occupations expired, but there was no sign of action
from the Ukrainian police to force them out.
In Donetsk on Saturday, a group of around 40 young people armed with
wooden bats briefly took over a floor of the general prosecutors
office, barricading themselves in with furniture.
The protesters later agreed to leave following negotiations, Donetsk
police said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Lina Kushch;
writing by Conor Humphries; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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