Ukraine Liveblog Day 49: Separatists Call For Moscow’s “Protection”

April 7, 2014
Pro-Russian activistshold a rally in front of Ukraine's regional security service of Ukraine in Lugansk on April 6, 2014.(AFP Photo / Igor Golovniov )

After a day of protests and clashes in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists have called on Moscow to intervene by sending troops across the border.

Yesterday’s liveblog see our latest podcast.

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A map of events over the last two days.

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Below we will be making regular updates.

2242 GMT: RFE/RL’s Tom Balmforth and EuroMaidan have reported that Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov has come to negotiate with the Donetsk separatists.

Earlier today, separatists in Donetsk proclaimed independence from Ukraine.

2240 GMT: According to an eyewitness who spoke with Hramadske TV in Kharkiv, tires set on fire in front of the State Administration Building then set a ground-floor room on fire, windows burst out, and columns were damaged. There have been an unknown number of injuries but ambulances did not appear to get through, field medics were providing first aid. The mob that gathered outside the building and then went inside did not appear to have a leader and it is not clear how the situation is going to develop.

2224 GMT: TV Rain has also reported clashes in Kharkiv between police and pro-Russian activists at 00:23 local time:

“At the Kharkov Regional Administration Building, late in the evening of Monday 8 April, clashes took places between advocates of holding a referendum to join Russia and [Ukrainian] police, Kharkov Anti-Maidan reported on Ustream.

According to accounts from an eye-witness, activists are trying to force police out of the administration building. Police are using flash grenades and clubs. There are some persons injured, but it is not clear how many.

Activists have set fire a pile of car tires at the entrance to the administration building. According to reports from eye-witnesses, the fire has spread into the building. One of the activists has thrown a Molotov cocktail.

Earlier, there was a report that 30 pro-Russian activists had seized the editorial office of the Kharkov television channel ATN. ATN has a report on its site. As Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes has said, activists also control the broadcast tower of the Kharkiv Region Television Company, Interfax reports. They demand that Ukrainian televisions be turned off and Russian channels turned on.

Earlier, Ukrainian Interior Ministry head Arsen Avakov announced that additional forces of special divisions of police are being sent to Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Lugansk.”

2214 GMT: According to a video taken from the Anti-Maidan Kharkiv livestream, the building entrance of the Kharkiv State Administration Building has been freed up again as Kharkiv police supposedly opened it up again. This enabled some pro-Russian forces to storm into the building again and go up to the top floors, and then put up the Russian flag again. We are still trying to confirm this report because according to other reports, police have restored order.

According to an unidentified video reporter, one room on the ground floor of the building has burned completely, and windows have been broken on the first and second floors. The Poltova police who had come to assist Kharkiv law-enforcers earlier have reportedly exited to the back courtyard. Tear-gas grenades were reportedly thrown into the crowd and some are still found on the ground.

Thus the building is reportedly in the hands of pro-Russian forces again.

2152 GMT: Reports of the government building taken over again by pro-Russian forces in Kharkiv:

Translation: @kakonobylo Kharkiv URGENT. The ODA [Regional Administration Building] is once again in the hands of the rebels, the Russian flag has been raised. Entry is free, Poltava and Kiev police have been taken out to the courtyard.

2118 GMT: John Schindler has written an analysis of US policy towards Russia, and he argues that the Obama administration, perhaps like other presidents before him, misunderstand Putin. While Obama has ridiculed the notion that we are in the midst of a new Cold War, Schindler argues that this idea is a central tenet of Putinism, and many of Putin’s actions spring from that ideology:

We are entering a New Cold War with Russia, whether we want to or not, thanks to Putin’s acts in Ukraine, which are far from the endpoint of where the Kremlin is headed in foreign policy.

As long as the West continues to pretend there is no ideological component to this struggle, it will not understand what is actually going on. Simply put, Putin believes that his country has been victimized by the West for two decades, and he is pushing back, while he is seeking partners. We will have many allies in resisting Russian aggression if we focus on issues of freedom and sovereignty, standing up for the rights of smaller countries to choose their own destiny.

Schindler speaks at length about Putin’s statements on issues like Russia’s relationship to the West, but he also focuses on issues like gay rights, feminism, and other Western liberal values which Russia does not hold. Schindler argues that while many in the West see these issues as problematic, but separate from issues of foreign policy, in fact they are linked. Putin, and the Russian Orthodox Church, believe that the West is an enemy of Russia — and gay rights and feminism are simply part of a foreign assault on traditional Russian values.

too much emphasis on social and sexual matters – that is, telling countries how they must organize their societies and families – will be strategically counterproductive. Some Americans already believe that Putin, not Obama, is on God’s side in this struggle, and this will only get worse as Europe elects more far-right parties to power, many of which are sympathetic to Putinism, and some are secretly on the Kremlin payroll.

If we choose to resist Russia because Putin rejects gay rights and feminism, we will have fewer allies and well-wishers than if we instead focus on matters of national sovereignty and dignity. The choice is ours. The Internationale famously promised, “this is the final struggle” (c’est la lutte finale), and now perhaps we are in that very conflict; there is no doubt that post-modern Westerners feel their social beliefs are the endpoint of all human development, and we may soon find out if they are right.

The entire article can be read on Business Insider.

2113 GMT: Mike Giglio is in Donetsk, and has been conducting interviews there:

We now know that at least some of the buildings in Donetsk have been retaken.



2059 GMT: AN IMPORTANT UPDATE – We were originally watching a live feed from the Kharkiv administration building. It appears, however, that this video stream is coming from multiple sources. The most recent images, which we thought were still Kharkiv, are in fact Nikolayev. It also appears that the live feed is not all live, though all of the video appears to have been recorded tonight.

2051 GMT: The scene in Kharkiv is now highly chaotic. Flash grenades, fireworks, molotov cocktails, firecrackers… and possibly even gunfire have erupted in the last few minutes. It’s not clear what is going on, except that there are pro-Russian and pro-Ukraine protesters in close proximity, and police are also present.

kharkiv fireworks

2046 GMT: The police may have put out the fires, but pro-Russian crowds are still causing plenty of other problems outside the regional administrative building in Kharkiv:

On the livestream, protesters have been filmed destroying a nearby tent:

protesters kharkiv

kharkiv tent destruction

2041 GMT: Amid reports that police inside Kharkiv’s administrative building were trying to put the fires out themselves, the fires now appear largely extinguished:

kharkiv smoke

2033 GMT: The scene at the Kharkiv administrative building is deteriorating rapidly. Banging, and what sounds like the occasional flash grenade, can be regularly heard, and the fires now threaten to engulf the building.

Now, Euromaidan’s official twitter account adds an important detail — the police reportedly recaptured the building before the fires started:

2029 GMT: The fires outside city hall in Kharkiv are getting worse. This second picture is to the left of the first picture. You can make out the same trees in both:

fires kharkiv 3

fires kharkiv left

2023 GMT: No serious analyst believes that Ukraine will be getting Crimea back from Russia any time soon. But in an interesting twist, Ukraine is suing Russia in international court over the resources it lost when Crimea was annexed. Reuters reports:

Ukraine’s ecology and natural resources minister estimated on Monday that Kiev had lost natural resources and related assets worth 127 billion hryvnias ($10.8 bln) when Russia annexed the Crimea region.

Ukraine has said it will file compensation claims with international courts over the annexation of Crimea, which Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said could ultimately cost Kiev “hundreds of billions of dollars”.

Andriy Mokhnyk’s spokesman said the minister had told a news conference Ukraine intended to go to court to recover the money Ukraine would lose through its natural resources assets, which included businesses, 198 fields and 380 prospective ones.

2014 GMT Fires are burning in Kharkiv, but it’s not clear to us yet how they started. At least one report suggests that pro-Russian protesters started the fires:


fires kharkiv 2

2008 GMT: In Donetsk, an “anti-terror” operation is already underway to recapture government buildings, and so far it appears to be going well (could these be the Ukrainian “spetsnaz” Lifenews posted video of earlier? – jump to update 1920):

So now everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop in Kharkiv, and at the other buildings occupied by separatists. Something appears to have already started in Kharkiv:

Fires are already blazing:

kharkiv fires

1954 GMT: More bad news for the Russian economy. Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, is preparing to switch from doing business in dollars to doing business in Euros in order to dodge any future American sanctions. Financial Times reports:

Alexander Dyukov, chief executive of Gazprom Neft, told reporters in St Petersburg that the company had discussed shifting contracts to euros with its customers. “Practically all – 95 per cent of our customers – confirmed their willingness to move to settlement in euros,” he said.

One senior banker said that many commodity groups, including Gazprom Neft, had held talks with bankers about financing in euros rather than dollars. “Every commodity sector business is talking about what is possible if you couldn’t do deals in dollars – if you couldn’t get dollar clearing through New York,” he said.

Such a switch could result in higher costs for companies because of the need to convert currencies and the lower liquidity for those other than the US dollar.

Russian stocks tumbled on Monday after pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk said they would hold a referendum for the eastern province to join Russia, mimicking earlier moves that lead to Crimea’s annexation. The benchmark Micex index fell 2.4 per cent, with Sberbank down 3.7 per cent and Gazprom 2.5 per cent weaker.

Some analysis from Maks Czuperski of The Atlantic council:

In other words, the US only passed sanctions after the annexation of Crimea. Until Russia conducts more actions, there don’t seem to be any talks of additional sanctions from Washington. So if Gazprom is making announcements that have sunk their stocks and may cost them significant amounts of money, they could know something about what Russia will do next.

1943 GMT: Ukrainian security services have reportedly arrested a Russian special forces saboteur near Lugansk. The Interpreter translates the report from

On 5 April, SBU agents together with border guards at the Krasnaya Talovka border crossing in Lugansk Region detained a Russian citizen, Roman Sergeyevich Bannykh, who was trying to cross the Ukrainian border to organize and coordinate separatist actions in Lugansk, reported, citing the SBU.

Bannykh, born 1985, is registered in unit no. 13204 which is part of the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces), and directly organized and coordinated the work of a sabotage group from Russian territory which operated in Ukraine. The purpose of these deeply clandestine groups was to overthrow the constitution order and seize power, commit terrorist acts, incite separatism and destabilize the situation in the eastern regions of our country.

Four others from such a group were arrested in Donetsk region in early March.

The SBU said Bannykh’s second attempt to enter Ukraine was related to plans for sabotage in the Lugansk area, in particular organization of mass actions 6 March [sic – we believe this should be 6 April].

Roman Sergeyevich Bannykh

Roman Sergeyevich Bannykh

1939 GMT: Some breaking news — that one of the buildings occupied by separatists has reportedly been captured by police:


1920 GMT: Lifenews, a Russian outlet with very close ties to the Russian security apparatus, has posted a video that it calls “Kiev Spetsnaz Arrive by Stealth in Donetsk.” We have translated the article below:

The airplane arrived in Donetsk 7 April after acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov announced the beginning of an anti-terrorist operation aimed against protesters in eastern Ukraine.

The video shows how soldiers, without identifying marks except for their maroon berets, open crates of weapons, inspect grenade-launchers, sort ammunition and drag bales of mattresses and poncho-tents.

According to LifeNews’ information, the plane with weapons and soldiers arrived from Kiev. The maroon berets in Ukraine are always worn only by the Berkut and Titan special forces divisions of the Interior Ministry. Despite the fact that the Berkut units were dismantled, many of the fighters of this division went over to the side of the law-enforcement agencies formed by new Ukrainian authorities.

Next to the soldier’s “halting place,” several buses are waiting which are also impossible to identify.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchinov said on 7 April that he will use force against advocates of a referendum.

“Tonight an anti-crisis headquarters was created, and anti-terrorist measures will be used against those who have taken up arms,” said Turchinov. Taking into account the passive behavior of some local law-enforcement agencies, they will be reinforced from divisions from other regions, said the acting Ukrainian president.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has been appointed commander of the counter-terrorist operation. He will be coordinating the actions of the power ministries.

A screenshot:

In Donetsk secretive special forces arrived in Kiev   First for breaking news   LIFE   NEWS

1847 GMT: More back and forth between US and Russian diplomats — Hannah Allam reports on the State Department briefing:

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has penned an op-ed for The Guardian. In his letter Lavrov slams “outside forces” for the crisis in Ukraine, and says that it is Russia that has been trying to be constructive but instead has been attacked for their efforts:

Russia is doing all it can to promote early stabilisation in Ukraine. We are firmly convinced that this can be achieved through, among other steps: real constitutional reform, which would ensure the legitimate rights of all Ukrainian regions and respond to demands from its south-eastern region to make Russian the state’s second official language; firm guarantees on Ukraine’s non-aligned status to be enshrined in its laws, thus ensuring its role as a connecting link in an indivisible European security architecture; and urgent measures to halt activity by illegal armed formations of the Right Sector and other ultra-nationalist groups.

We are not imposing anything on anyone, we just see that if it is not done, Ukraine will continue to spiral into crisis with unpredictable consequences. We stand ready to join international efforts aimed at achieving these goals. We support the appeal by foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland to implement the 21 February agreement. Their proposal – to hold Russia-EU talks with the participation of Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership states about the consequences of EU association agreements – corresponds to our position.

The world of today is not a junior school where teachers assign punishments at will. Belligerent statements such as those heard at the Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 1 April do not match demands for a de-escalation. De-escalation should begin with rhetoric. It is time to stop the groundless whipping-up of tension, and to return to serious common work.

1839 GMT: The SBU, the state security building, in Kharkiv,

1830 GMT: Are Russian troops already in Donetsk?


Can a T-shirt really be a clue as to this man’s identity? It’s hardly the smoking gun, but the shirt appears to be a Russian telnyashka, a striped shirt used by Russian naval and airborne troops. The photograph appears to have been captured by Reuters today. In Crimea, Russian military soldiers, including airborne units, were posing as Crimean “self-defence” forces, and so it is not outside of the realm of possibility.

1732 GMT: Aeroflot has cancelled all flights to Donetsk due to the “difficult political situation”:

1643 GMT: The White House Press Secretary said today that “there is strong evidence suggesting some of these demonstrators were paid and were not local residents.” Russia, Jay Carney said, is behind this increased “pressure,” and he characterized Russia’s actions as “efforts to destabilize Ukraine.”

1616 GMT: Volodymyr Medyanyk, another member of the Party of Regions, the party of former President Viktor Yanukovych, has made statements about today’s events in eastern Ukraine. He has actually visited the SBU building in Lugansk, held by pro-Russian protesters, and he says that they are making the following demands:

1. Hold an emergency meeting of the Lugansk Regional Council.

2. Schedule a Crimean-style referendum on May 10-11.

3. Cancel the presidential elections scheduled on May 25th.

4. Release all political prisoners (it’s not clear who these would be, but the next demand gives one clue).

5. Restore Ukraine’s infamous Berkut and “Alpha” riot police to duty and give them a pardon from the crimes for which they stand accused.

6. Give all power to regional councils, immediately, including power over security forces.

1608 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry has released the following statement on the current events in Ukraine, translated by The Interpreter:

Russia is carefully observing the events in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, in particular in the Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkiv regions.

As the Russian government has repeatedly noted, without real Constitutional reform in Ukraine, in the framework of which through federalization, the interests of all regions of the country would be guaranteed, preserving its extra-bloc status, strengthening the special role of the Russian language, it is hard to expect long-term stabilization of the Ukrainian state.

If an irresponsible attitude to the fate of the country, to the fate of its own people on the part of political forces that call themselves the Ukrainian government continues, then Ukraine will inevitably encounter ever new difficulties and crises.

It’s time to stop nodding to Russia and blaming it for all of the problems of today’s Ukraine. The Ukrainian people want to hear from Kiev a coherent answer to all questions.

It is time to heed these lawful demands.

Russia confirms its proposals for international assistance to the beginning of an authentic national dialogue of all political and regional forces in Ukraine. We are prepared to take part in the relevant efforts together with foreign partners, including the ministers of foreign affairs of countries that attested to the 21 February agreement on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine.

The key points: Ukraine needs to federalize, thus giving far more autonomy to the regions, and Russia is not causing this crisis, the “political forces that call themselves the Ukrainian government” are the root cause for unrest.

1603 GMT: Mike Giglio notes two interesting tweets from Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum:

1555 GMT: RFE/RL have two interesting updates about the international reaction to the current crisis. The first is that both Lithuania and Latvia have suspended two Russian TV channels operated by the Russian state broadcaster VGTRK. The second update, however, is that NATO is now treating Russian personnel visiting NATO headquarters as “visitors” according to a statement published today:

NATO Foreign Ministers decided on April 1 to suspend all practical cooperation with Russia, civilian and military, as a direct consequence of Russia’s illegal military intervention in Ukraine and of Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which NATO strongly condemns. Ministers also decided that political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, mainly to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Political consultations in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council at the Ambassadorial level can also continue as appropriate.

As a consequence, the formerly extensive access to NATO Headquarters will be denied to all representatives of the Russian Mission, except the Russian Ambassador, his Deputy Head of Mission, and two support staff. Should any other staff from the Russian Mission require access for official business, standard visitor rules will apply. That means that the staff member will have to be announced, registered and escorted during their visits. This still gives Russian diplomats a level of access to NATO Headquarters that was never granted by any Russian ministry or institution to NATO staff working in Moscow.

1532 GMT We’ve been reporting on the Donetsk regional administrative building, which has been seized by pro-Russian separatists who have appointed themselves as the “Republican Council of the Donetsk People’s Republic” and declared independence from Ukraine. The council appears to have no legal authority, and it’s not even certain that there are any elected officials who are part of the council.

The question is whether Russia will recognize the council and intervene on their behalf. A quick glance at the distortions in the Russian state-run news outlet ITAR-TASS may provide a clue. Their report:

The lawmakers unanimously supported the address of the Republican Council of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Earlier, the deputies of the Donetsk regional council proclaimed the state sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The corresponding bill was read at the council’s session.

“The territory of the republic within the recognized borders is indivisible and inviolable,” the council said. The legislators also passed a decision on holding a referendum on whether or not the region should join the Russian Federation. It will be held no later than May 11.

Lawmakers? Deputies? “Bill”? The Russian news agency is using language that legitimizes the relatively-small group of protesters.

But the real concerning paragraphs come at the end of the story, where ITAR-TASS says that the Russian Federation Council has already given President Putin the authoprity to intervene in Ukraine. As we noted both then and now, that proclamation’s language was never limited to Crimea, though it was used to justify Russian intervention in Crimea. Again, ITAR-TASS:

March 1, 2014, Russia’s Federation Council gave its consent to the president for using the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine. The relevant decision was unanimously adopted by the upper house of Russian parliament at an extraordinary session. Earlier, Vladimir Putin submitted to the Federation Council an address on using the armed forces of Russia on the territory of Ukraine until the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country. This initiative was proposed with regard to a plea by Ukraine’s legitimate president Viktor Yanukovych.

Later the Ukrainian leader said that the address to Vladimir Putin regarding the use of armed forces was triggered by the bout of armed delinquency in Ukraine. “I’ve done it for a reason, because I became target of the criminals. Armed gangs started to cruise around the country. In particular, they pursued me on the territory of Ukraine,” he said.

1526 GMT: The Kyiv Post reports that two prominent leaders of the Yanukovych government were filmed fleeing the country:

On Feb. 22, when most of Ukraine was mourning dozens of EuroMaidan protesters killed allegedly on the orders of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and Minister of Revenues and Duties of Ukraine Oleksandr Klymenko were busy making a hasty exit out of Ukraine…

Pshonka and Klymenko are seen in the video as having gotten past passport control officers when Pshonka’s mobile phone rings.

It appears that someone called to warn him of his possible arrest. Realizing the sudden danger, Pshonka and Klymenko – along with their bodyguards — break through the terminal, smashing everything blocking their path.

While Klymenko started fighting with the border guards, Pshonka desperately struggles towards the terminal exit, almost losing his coat in the process.

Despite firing warning shots in the air, the border guards failed to stop the duo.

Pshonka and Klymenko, in addition to other allegations, face charges of resisting border guards and could be sentenced to up to six years in prison if convicted.

The whereabouts of the two former officials remains unknown, though many suspect they have fled to Russia.

1507 GMT: Meanwhile, just across the border there are still large contingents of Russian troops, according to the United States. The U.S. ambassador to the OSCE said Russia still has tens of thousands of troops on the border, and is making no effort to deescalate the situation:

“We have strong evidence that there are tens of thousands of forces on the border and again not in their normal peacetime positions or garrisons,” Daniel Baer told reporters after an emergency meeting of the 57-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Monday to discuss the issue.

1502 GMT: RT describes this footage as showing “Shots fired in failed attempt to storm local TV office in Donetsk.” RT reports:

A group of unidentified armed people tried to seize a local state TV company office on Monday in Donetsk, with staff having to flee the scene until armed police arrived.

The armed people reportedly drove up to the OGTRK office in two cars and had a faceoff with police. They reportedly opened fire using assault rifles, but fled after they saw police in full ammunition (sic).

1454 GMT: RFE/RL’s livestream from outside the regional administration building in Kharkiv showed, just moments ago, the pro-Russian crowd erupt in cheers as armored men with riot shields emerged from the ODA. It’s not clear, but it appears that the men may be moving towards the front of the crowd — which means toward the Ukrainian police.

kharkiv rally

The door of the ODA is blocked by men with bats who appear to be taking orders from the inside:

khakiv bats

1443 GMT: RFE/RL has posted a livestream from outside the regional administration building in Kharkiv that is currently occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

As you can see, pro-Russian protesters block the entrance to the building and are surrounded by police, while about 50-75 meters back, a crowd of pro-Ukraine protesters wave Ukrainian flags.

The pro-Ukraine crowd:

kharkiv pro EU protests

pro russia rally and security kharkiv

At the moment things don’t seem particularly tense.

1432 GMT: There are multiple reports of water and electricity being cut to the government buildings in two cities which separatists have seized:

And there could be further action:

Meanwhile, the jets keep flying over eastern Ukraine:


The jets may not be there is secure the situation on the ground as much as to remind Moscow that they won’t be able to enter eastern Ukraine without a fight.

1426 GMT: Monitoring the rhetoric — the official position of the government in Kiev appears to be that Russia is directly stoking separatists into action in order to threaten the territorial integrity of Ukraine:

In a televised message, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov accused Russia of starting a second wave of a special operation against Ukraine intended to overthrow the Kiev government.

“Enemies of Ukraine are trying to play out the Crimean scenario, but we will not let this happen,” he said in the pre-recorded address, blaming “separatist groups coordinated by Russian special services” of being behind the storming of buildings…

“It is absolutely clear that there is a realization of anti-Ukrainian, anti-Donetsk, anti-Luhansk and anti-Kharkov plans to destabilize the situation. The plan is (for) foreign troops to cross the border and seize the territory of the country,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said. “We will not allow it…”

“There is a script written in the Russian Federation, the purpose of which is only one: the dismemberment and destruction of Ukraine. … This cannot be,” Yatsenyuk said.

A major political candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko, is saying similar things right now in a televised speech:


1414 GMT: What happens next may depend on Moscow. If Russia treats these separatists as the legitimate leaders of their regions, Moscow may militarily intervene to “protect” them. So watching Moscow’s response to this crisis is important.

Today Putin met with the Federal Security Services (FSB), and made statements about Ukraine and Crimea:

Russia’s laws today give us the conditions we need for non-governmental and public organisations to work freely and transparently. But we will never accept for them to be used for destructive purposes. We will not accept a situation such as happened in Ukraine, when in many cases it was through non-governmental organisations that the nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and militants, who became the shock troops in the anti-constitutional coup d’état, received funding from abroad.

I ask you to pay attention too, to setting up the FSB’s branches in the new Russian Federation constituent entities of Crimea and Sevastopol. Their tasks will include making sure that people with a criminal past and advocates of various radical and extremist movements – people who want to prevent the region’s normal development, in other words – do not burrow their way into government bodies there.

Colleagues, counterintelligence has always been one of the FSB’s main areas of work. This is indeed an important part of your responsibilities. Last year alone, the security services put an end to the activities of 46 employees of foreign intelligence services and 258 of their agents.

This is not just reiterating previous statements. The Russian government appears to be saying now that the entire leadership in Kiev is illegitimate, that it is supported by non-government organizations and foreign backers who destabilized the country, and that it represents, or at least mirrors, the kinds of existential threats that the FSB is tasked with defeating.

Is Russia now making the next stage of a rhetorical argument for invading eastern Ukraine?

1404 GMT: Several hundred pro-Russian protesters stormed the Opera House in Kharkiv, thinking it was city hall, according to the Russian independent radio outlet Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow).

1352 GMT: Foreign correspondent Myroslava Petsa is tweeting a summary of statements being given by several Party of Regions MPs, including Volodymyr Landyk, who is speaking on Espreso TV. One may remember that the Party of Regions was ousted president Viktor Yanukovych’s party, which makes his statements both more interesting and more alarming:

Is this true? We can’t evaluate the claims, but what is important is that even Landik believes that Russia is working to infiltrate and threaten eastern Ukraine.

On the other hand, long-time Yanukovych ally and Party of Regions leader Oleksandr Yefremov seems to be making different statements:

The party leader, and former Party of Regions member and wealthy (and possibly mob-connected) businessman Rinat Akhmetov, have been facing their own accusations today:

Perception, as they say, is reality. East and west Ukraine are more divided than ever, and each side does not trust the other. This is yet another serious sign that the fractures in this society, which some argue are being further stressed by Russian actions, could explode.

1345 GMT: Comparing what is happening in Donetsk and Kharkiv to what happened in Kiev in February is somewhat problematic. For starters, there were tens of thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of pro-EU protesters on the streets in Kiev at some of these rallies, and tens of thousands camped in Maidan for weeks on end. So far, in these eastern cities, we’re only seeing a few hundred people take to the streets in similar fashion. But these protesters are preparing to resist security forces none the less, which could complicate efforts to defuse the situation:


1339 GMT: The Ukrainian Rada is working quickly to respond to a growing crisis in eastern Ukraine:


As are Ukrainian authorities in east Ukraine:

1328 GMT: In Donetsk, a group of pro-Russian activists have seized the headquarters of the Security Services of Ukraine. In Kharkiv, protesters have erected barricades around tgovernment buildings. The Russian state-funded outlet RT reports that the protesters in Donetsk have declared the region to be autonomous and have asked for Russian intervention:

Today at 12:20 local time, a session of the people’s Council of Donbass (Donetsk region) took place in the main hall of the Regional Council and unanimously voted on a declaration to form a new independent state: the People’s Republic of Donetsk.

The Council proclaimed itself the only legitimate body in the region until the regions in southeast Ukraine conduct a general referendum, set to take place no later than May 11.

“The Donetsk Republic is to be created within the administrative borders of the Donetsk region. This decision will come into effect after the referendum,” the statement said.

The Council in Donetsk issued an address to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for deployment of a temporary peacekeeping force to the region.

“Without support it will be hard for us to stand against the junta in Kiev,” said the address.

“We are addressing Russian President Putin because we can only entrust our security to Russia,” the statement said.

Of course, it should be noted that it is completely unclear how many people in Donetsk support this council which does not have any legal authority. Regardless, it is possible that Russia will argue otherwise.

Meanwhile a Ukrainian military offices has been shot and killed in Crimea, reportedly by Russian troops, and this is just adding to the tensions since activists in the east have asked Moscow to invade eastern Ukraine to “protect” pro-Russian elements there. The New York Times reports:

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Vladislav Seleznev, said the officer, Maj. Stanislav Karchevskiy, was killed in a military dormitory where he lived with his wife and two children, next to the Novofedorivka air base in western Crimea.

By about noon, the police in Donetsk said they were negotiating with representatives of about 150 protesters who had been occupying the regional administration building after breaking through a police cordon on Sunday.

The demonstrators said that they had formed a new legislature and would move ahead with plans to hold a referendum on May 11, two weeks before the provisional Ukrainian government in Kiev is set to hold a national presidential election.

Several organizers of the protest in Donetsk spoke inside the regional administration building, where Russian television channels were broadcasting the events live.

Pro-Russian activists guard a barricade set at the Ukrainian regional Security Service building on the eastern city of Donetsk on April 7, 2014.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)

Pro-Russian activists guard a barricade set at the Ukrainian regional Security Service building on the eastern city of Donetsk on April 7, 2014.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)