1 March 2014 — RT
Thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators across eastern Ukraine and Crimea are protesting against the new government, with administration buildings being seized in several cities. Gunshots have been reported as anti- and pro-Maidan protesters clash.
Protesters in Kharkov and Donetsk stormed local government offices and removed Ukrainian flags, replacing them with the Russian tricolor on Saturday.
Between 7,000 to 10,000 demonstrators gathered in the center of Donetsk, a large industrial city in eastern Ukraine. Reportedly, protesters seized the regional administration building. While a group of demonstrators were storming the building from the central entrance, a crowd in Lenin Square in front of it kept chanting “Russia!”
The participants of the rally are demanding to hold a referendum on the future of the region, and particularly, on the status of Russian language.
Earlier, according to a local news portal, a scuffle occurred between Party of Regions supporters and the so-called Volunteers’ Crops commanded by activist Pavel Gubarev, who was spontaneously proclaimed “regional governor.” Addressing the crowd, Gubarev said the authorities in Kiev were illegitimate and called for establishing popular rule. He then urged demonstrators to set up a peaceful protest camp in front of the regional government’s office.
In Kharkov, the largest city in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian protesters managed to break through the cordon of Maidan supporters and captured the government building. The storming was accompanied by clashes and shooting, RBC daily reports.
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Some 97 people have been injured in clashes between anti- and pro-Maidan demonstrators in Kharkov, reports Itar-Tass, citing the city’s deputy mayor, Svetlana Gorbunova.
“Luckily, there are no gunshot wounds,” she added.
At least 10 explosions were heard, both in the building and in the area around it. At least one policeman was among those hurt in the clashes, according to Itar-Tass.
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One of the demonstrators got on to the roof of the administration building, waving the Russian flag. Meanwhile, pro-Maidan activists, who barricaded themselves inside one of the offices, are hanging a white flag out of the window. Police were accompanying injured supporters of the new government out of the building to ambulances, Unian agency reports.
In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, around 6,000 people marched, chanting “Russia!” and “No to Fascism!” and carrying a huge Russian flag.
Thousands are also demonstrating with Russian and Soviet flags in Odessa, the third-largest city in the country. According to police, around 5,000 people are taking part in the gathering, while organizers insist there are up to 20,000.
Crimeans began protesting after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official documents in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.