Pro-Russians declare independence in eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk

Updated: 2014-04-08 07:12

By Agencies in Donetsk, Ukraine (China Daily)

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Pro-Russian activists who seized the main administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk proclaimed the creation of a sovereign "people's republic" independent from Kiev on Monday.

The decision was announced to reporters by a spokesman for the protesters who came out of the occupied building.

Footage posted online showed one Russian speaker telling the packed assembly from a podium, "Seeking to create a popular, legitimate, sovereign state, I proclaim the creation of the sovereign state of the People's Republic of Donetsk."

The announcement was met by a huge roar from about 100 men packed inside an auditorium of what appeared to be the Donetsk administration building.

The Ostrov news website in Donetsk reported that the activists later resolved to join the Russian Federation in a move similar to the one taken by Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last month.

The news site said the resolution was met with cheers and calls for assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin, with many chanting, "Putin, help!"

The Interfax news agency reported that the self-proclaimed leaders of Donetsk vowed to hold a regional sovereignty referendum no later than May 11.

'Separatist disorder'

Pro-Russian protesters seized state buildings in three east Ukrainian cities on Sunday, triggering accusations from the government in Kiev that 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. All three cities lie close to Ukraine's border with Russia.

On Monday, the Donetsk administration building remained surrounded by about 2,000 Russian supporters, some of them armed. Pro-Russian protesters also remained in control of the headquarters of the security service of the eastern region of Lugansk.

However, activists left the administration building in Kharkiv on Monday after occupying it overnight.

Ukrainian standoff

Mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine has seen a sharp rise in tensions since former president Viktor Yanukovych's overthrow in February 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 Crimea, citing threats to its Russian-speaking majority - a move that intensified the standoff between Moscow and the West.

The secessionist crisis since Sunday prompted Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to send his deputy, Vitaliy Yarema, to the region in order to establish a semblance of control.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov vowed to restore order in eastern Ukraine without using violence and also accused Yanukovich, whose political base was in Donetsk, of conspiring with Putin to fuel tensions.

Donetsk Governor Sergiy Toruta urged Ukraine's interim government to hold an urgent meeting of the national security and defense council in his region.

"Today, a plan is being implemented in the Donetsk, Lugank and Kharkiv regions to destabilize peace as well as social and economic stability," Toruta said in a statement.


(China Daily 04/08/2014 page10)