Ukraine: Pro Russian protests in Donetsk

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Deep divisions split Donetsk as tensions simmer across Ukraine

March 5, 2014

Inside the occupied government building, teenagers strolled through the regional council chamber and took selfies in the speaker’s chair, now flanked by the flags of Russia and the Soviet-era independent republic of Donetsk. Riot policemen with shields and helmets lined the corridors, but they seemed in no particular hurry to remove the pro-Russian activists who had burst into the 11-storey building a day before and appointed their own “people’s governor”. “We will not leave until our demands are met,” said Olexsander, aged 42, a self-appointed commander in the “local resistance” camped out in the council chamber. “Donetsk belongs with Russia,” he said. Pro-Russian groups have called on local deputies to declare the government in Kiev illegitimate, to put all security forces under regional control and to withhold taxes from the capital. They also want a referendum on the region’s future status – although they have yet to agree on the question to be asked, and the new government in Kiev has said that any such vote would be illegal.

But while the Russian tricolour still fluttered over the parliament building on Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters gathered in the square outside, waving the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine, and calling for the country to come together in unity. In the wake of Russia’s armed intervention in Crimea, tensions are simmering across the Russian-speaking provinces of eastern Ukraine. Reports that Russian military vehicles had gathered on Ukraine’s border near Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk have triggered rumours that the Kremlin is preparing to pull another intervention in Ukraine’s eastern regions. Kiev says Moscow has organised the demonstrations and sent hundreds of Russian citizens across the frontier to stage protests which would provide the pretext for a military advance – a charge which was vehemently denied by protestors in the Donetsk parliament. “I can tell you from my heart this is absolutely not true. The people here are only locals,” said Olexsander. Large pro-Russian demonstrations have been held in Odessa, Kharkiv and Donetsk, and Russian flags raised atop administrative buildings. The Kharkiv protests descended into violence when counter-demonstrators calling for Ukrainian unity were badly beaten by Russian nationalists. The deep divisions in Donetsk – the home town of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych – were acted out over the course of the day in a series of rival protests for and against Ukrainian unity.

Source = Guardian

Reuters

Ukraine raises flag over Donetsk government building

March 5, 2014

“On Tuesday evening around 1,500 demonstrators marched in Donetsk waving Ukrainian flags and opposing Russian military intervention, the first time that pro-Kiev protesters outnumbered pro-Russian demonstrators in the city.”

(Reuters) – Ukraine raised its flag on Wednesday over the government headquarters in Donetsk where a Russian flag had stood for five days, witnesses said, an important signal of shifting control in the Russian-speaking east. Police said they were evacuating the building, which has been occupied since Monday by pro-Russian demonstrators. A police statement said the evacuation began after reports that the building was booby-trapped with explosives. Donetsk, home city of deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, has seen the most persistent pro-Russian demonstrations since protests erupted in eastern and southern cities on Saturday just as Russian President Vladimir Putin was declaring his right to invade.

Russian forces already have control of the southern Crimea region but have not entered other parts of Ukraine. The main concern of NATO officials meeting Russian counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday is Putin’s threat to launch a wider invasion to protect Russians across Ukraine’s east and south. The pro-Moscow activists in Donetsk, led by a local businessman named Pavel Gubarev who declared himself “people’s governor”, have been holed up in the regional administration building. They have demanded relations with Kiev be severed and control over the police and security forces be placed in Gubarev’s hands. Kiev accuses Moscow of organising the marches to create an excuse for military intervention, busing Russians across the border to protest. Some of Gubarev’s followers are clearly outsiders who speak Russian without the distinctive local accent, although others appear to be from the area.

Source = Reuters

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