State buildings seized in Ukraine
Uprising in east prompts claims Russia is trying to repeat 'Crimea scenario'
RUSSIA was accused of attempting to repeat the "Crimea scenario" in eastern Ukraine yesterday after pro-Moscow activists barricaded seized government buildings and in one city proclaimed a referendum on breaking ties with Kiev.
Activists seized control of public buildings in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk on Sunday night and issued calls yesterday for Russian support for their uprising against the pro-Western government.
In a statement, the Donetsk separatists said a referendum on independence would be held on May 11, a date they said had been coordinated with other groups in the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.
Regional officials appealed for Kiev to intervene to prevent the dismemberment of their country.
At a meeting in the regional assembly building broadcast live by Russian state television, about 120 activists calling themselves the People's Republic of Donetsk voted to establish a breakaway state subject to a public vote.
The activists were seen preparing for a police assault on the building, and stacking crates of molotov cocktails. They also appealed to Russian president Vladimir Putin for assistance. In scenes broadcast from the chamber, an unidentified bearded man said they would ask Moscow to send a "peacekeeping contingent" if Kiev resorted to force.
In Kharkiv, police looked on as pro-Russian activists surrounded members of the far-right Pravy Sektor group, which played a key role in the Kiev uprising, forcing them to crawl on their knees amid a chanting crowd.
While the separatists had been evicted from the Kharkiv regional administration building by yesterday, the challenge facing the authorities was far from over in other cities.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the acting prime minister, denounced the protests as part of a plot to destabilise Ukraine and open the way for Russian military intervention.
"An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation . . . under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country," he said. "We will not allow this."
Ukrainian and NATO officials warned that large, well-prepared bodies of Russian troops were standing by close to the Ukrainian border in a clear threat to intervene on behalf of the demonstrators.
Oleksander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president, said in a TV address that Russia was seeking to repeat "the Crimea scenario" and vowed that "anti-terrorist measures" would be used against any armed revolt.
He also said the Ukrainian parliament would consider a bill to strengthen punishments for separatist activity.
The developments in Donetsk mirror those leading up to the Russian annexation of Crimea in March, when armed men seized control of the regional parliament building and the local assembly voted in a closed session for a referendum on autonomy.
Russian troops began to arrive in the peninsula the following night and the referendum was later changed from one on autonomy within Ukraine to one on unification with Russia.
Separately, a Russian soldier shot and killed a Ukrainian officer during an altercation in Crimea on Sunday, Ukrainian's defence ministry said.
The shooting of the officer, who has been named as Major Stanislav Karachevsky, is one of only a handful of deaths reported since Russia seized the peninsula in late February. (© Daily Telegraph, London)