Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of instigating the protests that began Sunday in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk — cities where ethnic Russians make up much of the population — and have vowed to subdue the secessionists.
“We call for the immediate cessation of any military preparations, which are fraught with the risk of unleashing civil war,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
While acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said Monday that “antiterrorist measures” would be taken against protesters who had seized arms, officials didn’t immediately confront the protesters amid the tense standoffs.
But Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said an “antiterrorist” operation had been launched in Kharkiv and around 70 separatists had been arrested after taking control of the regional administration building.
In Donetsk, protesters declared the founding of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and demanded a referendum on independence from Ukraine.