Pro-Russian protesters storm eastern Ukraine govt buildings

Crowds in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv attack regional admin, security service buildings and demand unification with Russia

Crowds in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv attack regional admin, security service buildings and demand unification with Russia

DONETSK, Ukraine - Pro-Russia demonstrators in Ukraine's eastern cities Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv on Sunday stormed government buildings, including the Donetsk and Kharkiv regional administration buildings and the Lugansk headquarters of the national security services (SBU). 

About 1,500 demonstrators marched on the offices of Donetsk's city administration before storming the building and breaking through a police cordon. Between 50-100 protesters forced their way through the entrance and onto the building’s second floor before tearing down the Ukrainian flag and replacing it with a Russian tri-color. The crowd later hung banners declaring the 'Republic of Donetsk' from the second floor balcony and called for the creation of a provisional people's council to hold a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

"Around 100 people are in the building and setting up barricades." Donetsk police spokesman Igor Dyomin said in an official statement.

Also on Sunday, up to 1,000 Pro-Russia supporters attacked the local security services' headquarters after a SBU raid Saturday resulted in the seizure of a large weapons cache and the arrest 15 individuals suspected of planning the overthrow of the local authorities. 

The protesters demanded the release of Russian ultra-nationalist leader Alexander Kharitanov and those detained in Saturday's raid. The crowd also called for an immediate referendum on unification with the Russian Federation. 

The SBU stated on its official website that six of the 15 detainees have been released.

In Kharkiv, on the Russian-Ukrainian border, an estimated 1,000 pro-Moscow activists stormed the regional administration building yelling 'Russia and Kharkiv', Interfax Ukraine reported. The report also said two unidentified explosions were heard near the demonstration. 

Mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine has been rocked by Pro-Russia rallies in the wake of Moscow's invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea last month. Protesters have demanded the right to hold referendums on their regions' status, while also calling for active support from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The press service of Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov announced that his scheduled visit to Lithuania would be cancelled due to the ongoing situation in the country. 

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