Over 10,000 pro-autonomy demonstrators rallied across eastern Ukraine as Kiev’s coup-appointed President threatened military force if protesters and paramilitaries reject a Monday morning deadline to vacate occupied government buildings.
The deadline expired on Monday morning, however no use of force followed it immediately. Tension remains high in the Donetsk Region, as protesters prepare for a possible assault.
“The people demand that local authorities take orders from the [self-proclaimed – RT] Donetsk People’s Republic, so nobody among the protesters is going to vacate the government buildings. We’ll take our stand,” Nikolay Solntsev, one of the protest leaders, said.
Anti-Maidan activists still occupy government buildings in Donetsk, the region’s capital. A city center rally on Sunday saw a senior ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ figure call for pro-autonomy activists to deploy across the region to prepare for a referendum.
Over 100 volunteers were also recruited to man defense lines against Kiev’s “an anti-terrorist operation”, underway most notably in Slavyansk. Buses waited to ferry the eager volunteers.
Hundreds also gathered for rallies in support of federalization in Druzhovka, Debaltsevo and other Donbas towns.
According to Ukrainian media, the city authorities in Zhdanovsk and Kirovsk have expressed readiness to start talks on the recognition of the legitimacy of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
A rally in Mariupol in south-east of the country resulted in the seizure of city council by the pro-Russian protesters, ITAR-TASS news agency reports. Over 1,000 demonstrators, who chanted “Slavyansk, we’re with you!” and “Referendum,” have forced the police, guarding the building, to retreat.
Meanwhile, dozens asked for medical assistance in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkov, after the pro-federalization demonstrators clashed with the Maidan activists. The rallies of two antagonistic sides, which saw a joint turnout of around 3,000, were staged in the city simultaneously, with the police being unable to prevent provocations.
“50 people required medical aid. Around 10 of them were taken to city hospitals. The doctors are speaking of minor or moderate injuries. Among the wounded there’s one policeman,” the local law enforcement authorities said.
In the capital, Ukraine’s Security Council convened for an urgent session following the events in Slavyansk. A decision was taken to launch “a large scale” operation, “with the involvement of the military,” Ukraine’s coup-imposed president, Aleksandr Turchinov, said in a televised address.
Later he said that the operation in the east will involve a non-regular regiment consisting of 350 reservists.
Earlier on Sunday, a gun flight reportedly broke out at a checkpoint, which was established by protesters on the outskirts of the city of Slavyansk.