Three weeks after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine stormed government buildings in three different eastern cities, including the second-largest in the country. Three people have been reported injured so far, including one Ukrainian riot police officer. Ukrainian authorities accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the “separatist disorder,” and pledged to resolve the situation “without bloodshed.”
In Donetsk, a 1,500-person protest turned violent as demonstrators smashed the windows of regional government buildings, raised Russian flags, and blasted Soviet-era music from a loudspeaker. In Kharkiv, the second largest city in the country, protesters seized the regional administrative building, while Demonstrators in Luhansk took control of the state security office and demanded the release of suspects recently detained by the Ukrainian government. In Luhansk and Donetsk, protesters demanded a Crimean-style referendum on joining Russia.
“We don’t want to join the EU, we don’t want to join NATO,” one woman told Ukrain’s Channel Five. “We want our children to live in peace.”
Eastern Ukraine, which has a largely Russian population, has been host to a slew of protests over the past couple of weeks. Putin has also amassed over 30,000 troops on the Russian—Ukrainian borders, stoking Western fears that he may be plotting another invasion on Ukrainian soil.
On Saturday, Ukrainian authorities confiscated hundreds of rifles, grenades and petrol bombs and detained 15 individuals suspected of plotting to overthrow the interim Ukrainian government. Following news that protesters had seized government buildings, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov vowed to resolve the situation non-violently.
"Putin and [ousted Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovich ordered and paid for the latest wave of separatist disorder in the east of the country,” Avakov said. "The situation will come back under control without bloodshed. That is the order to law enforcement officers, it's true.”
However, he added that “no one will peacefully tolerate the lawlessness of provocateurs.”