Kiev blames Russia for east-Ukraine protests

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email
Ukraine dispatches several security officials to eastern cities.

The protesters broke into a regional administrative building in the mining city of Donetsk on Sunday as well as security services offices in nearby Luhansk, where police said they had seized weapons.

(CNN) - Pro-Russian protesters have seized state buildings in several east Ukrainian cities, prompting accusations from Kiev that Moscow is trying to "dismember" the country and carry out a replay of Crimea.

The protesters broke into a regional administrative building in the mining city of Donetsk on Sunday as well as security services offices in nearby Luhansk, where police said they had seized weapons.

A self-proclaimed legislature, representing what it called the Donetsk People's Republic, then announced that it would hold a referendum by May 11 on whether the area should join Russia, Russian state-run news agency ITAR-Tass reported. The report could not immediately be independently verified. The Russian news agency also said the Donetsk group asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to send a "temporary peacekeeping contingent."

In a televised message, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov accused Russia of starting a second wave of a special operation against Ukraine intended to overthrow the Kiev government.

Protesters also seized the regional administrative building in Kharkov. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, in the city, said on his Facebook page Monday that the building had been cleared and that public employees had returned to work. All three cities lie close to Ukraine's border with Russia.

Mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine has seen a sharp rise in tensions since a new pro-European government took charge in Kiev after the overthrow of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Donetsk, Yanukovych's hometown, has seen several pro-Russian rallies in the last few weeks.

Moscow has branded the new government illegitimate and last month annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, citing threats to its Russian-speaking majority -- a move that has sparked the biggest rift in East-West relations since the end of the Cold War.

Moscow had no immediate word about the comments.


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