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article imageProtesters declare pro-Moscow republic in eastern Ukraine

By Nathan Salant     Apr 7, 2014 in World
Anti-government protesters in eastern Ukraine took over the regional assembly building in Donetsk, declared a republic independent of Kiev and begged Russia for military support.
Donetsk, the support base of former President Viktor Yanukovich, was one of three cities where pro-Russia demonstrators took over government buildings Sunday and pledged support for Moscow, which seized Ukraine's Crimea region more than a month ago.
But Ukraine's embattled government in Kiev denounced the actions by protesters in Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, accused Russia of involvement, and moved to retake the building in Kharkiv, according to the Reuters international news service.
"An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation ... under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told his cabinet on Sunday.
"We will not allow this," he said.
Ukraine said the actions by pro-Russia protesters in the country's east were similar to what happened in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow conquered quickly and quietly in March.
Russia says it moved on Crimea to protect ethnic Russians who were transferred to Ukrainian sovereignty in 1954.
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, said in a televised speech on Sunday that his country would take "anti-terrorist measures" against those taking up arms against Kiev and accused Moscow of trying to repeat "the Crimea scenario," Reuters said.
The United States and European Union have condemned the takeover of Crimea and demanded a rollback of Russian forces.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by phone that any further moves by Moscow to destabilize Ukraine would "incur further costs for Russia," Reuters said.
Kerry "called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs" in Ukraine, the US State Department told Reuters.
Kerry said he and Lavrov discussed starting direct talks between Ukraine, Russia, the US and EU within 10 days, Reuters said.
But Lavrov told Kerry that changes to Ukraine's constitution were necessary to resolve the crisis by giving largly ethnic Russian regions in the east more power.
In an article in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Lavrov denied Russia was destabilizing Ukraine and said Western countries were engaging in the "groundless whipping-up of tension," Reuters said.
Lavrov warned Kiev against using force against pro-Russia demonstrators, and US President Barack Obama warned Russia against making any military moves in eastern Ukraine, Reuters said.
In Donetsk, scored of activists calling themselves the "Republican People's Soviet of Donetsk" seized the regional assembly chamber and one man read aloud "the act of the proclamation of an independent state, Donetsk People's Republic" before a Russian flag, Reuters said.
"In the event of aggressive action from the illegitimate Kiev authorities, we will appeal to the Russian Federation to bring in a peacekeeping contingent," the proclamation said.
The text was then read to a cheering crowd outside the building, Reuters said.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Monday that the main administration building in Kharkiv had been cleared of "separatists," but police in Luhansk said protesters occupying the state security building had seized weapons.
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