Ukraine activists declare second city independent
Pro-Russians who seized administration building in the eastern city of Kharkiv proclaimed creation of ‘people’s republic’ independent of Kiev
Pro-Russian separatists seized Monday evening the main administration building in the northeastern city Kharkiv and called for independence from Kiev, mirroring a similar move in the eastern city of Donetsk hours earlier, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported.
Earlier in the day pro-Russian activists who seized the main administration building in Donetsk proclaimed the creation of a sovereign “people’s republic” independent of Kiev rule, Agence France-Presse reported.
The decision was announced to reporters by a spokesman for the protesters who came out of the occupied building.
Footage posted on YouTube 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 a hundred men packed inside an auditorium of what appeared to be the Donetsk administration building.
The industrial eastern region’s Ostrov (Island) news website 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 chants of: “(Russian President Vladimir) 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.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia on Monday of being behind a series of seizures by protesters of regional government buildings and said Moscow was trying to “dismember” his country.
“There is a plan to destabilize the situation, a plan for foreign forces to cross the border and seize the territory of the country, which we will not allow,” AFP quoted Yatsenyuk as telling a government meeting.
He added: “This scenario is written by the Russian Federation and its only purpose is to dismember Ukraine.”
On Monday, Ukraine’s interior minister said that pro-Russian demonstrators who had taken over a government building in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv at the weekend have been cleared from the site.
The building “has been completely freed of separatists” AFP quoted Arsen Avakov as saying on his Facebook page.
“Thanks to all those who offered their help,” he wrote, without specifying how the protesters were removed from the building.
On Sunday, activists shouting “Russia!” broke through police lines and stormed several government buildings in eastern Ukrainian regions seeking independence from Kiev following last month’s fall of a pro-Kremlin regime.
In addition to Kharkiv, the protesters had taken over state buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The clashes provided another reminder to the untested pro-Western leaders in Kiev of the monumental task facing them after their February 22 overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.
Several eastern regions now want to stage referendums on joining Kremlin rule when Ukraine holds snap presidential polls on May 25.
Ukrainian naval officer killed
Meanwhile, a Russian soldier has shot dead a Ukrainian naval officer in eastern Crimea, Reuters reported Ukraine’s defense ministry as saying on Monday, in one of few fatalities reported since Russia took control of the Black Sea peninsula.
The ministry gave few details of the death late on Sunday in the town of Novofyodorovka. Russian forces took over Crimea in an almost bloodless operation before Moscow annexed the region last month.
(With AFP and Reuters)