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Dozens leave building seized in Ukraine

Ukrainian said the step followed negotiations between officials and pro-Russian protesters who had seized the building in Luhansk

Published: Updated:

More than 50 people left a state security service building that had been seized by pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine early Wednesday, Kiev authorities said, following negotiations between the protesters and officials.

Pro-Russian protesters seized official buildings in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk on Sunday night, demanding that referendums be held on whether to join Russia like the one that preceded Moscow’s takeover of Crimea.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia had failed in taking steps to ease tensions in neighboring Ukraine, following a telephone conversation she had with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

"The situation in Ukraine remains difficult... and it is unfortunately not apparent in many areas how Russia is contributing to an easing of tensions." she said.

Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) said about 60 people were held as hostages inside the state security building in Luhansk, adding that the building was wired with explosives.

Some 51 people left the building early Wednesday without arms, according to SBU. It was not clear if they were protesters or hostages, it added.

Interfax news agency later put this number at 56 and said negotiations were continuing between the protesters and local officials to end the occupation.

Ukraine's interior minister said Wednesday the situation in eastern Ukraine with pro-Russia separatists will be resolved within the coming 48 hours, adding that the country would use force if negotiations failed.

"For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities," minister Arsen Avakov told journalists on the margins of a government meeting.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia on Tuesday of sending its agents into eastern Ukraine to “create chaos,” saying Moscow could be trying to lay the groundwork for military action like in Crimea.

“Everything that we’ve seen in the last 48 hours, from Russian provocateurs and agents operating in eastern Ukraine, tells us that they’ve been sent there determined to create chaos,” Kerry told U.S. lawmakers.

He described the efforts as “illegal, illegitimate,” and “absolutely unacceptable,” saying Moscow was seeking to further destabilize neighboring Ukraine by engaging in separatist activity.

“It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalyst behind the chaos of the last 24 hours,” Kerry told lawmakers, adding this “could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea.”


(With Reuters and AFP)