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The Unrest in Ukraine is Not Slowing Down Any Time Soon

Things in Ukraine have been heating up again — with parliament brawls, violent clashes, and official buildings seized by separatists.

by Alice Speri
Apr 8 2014, 4:05pm

Photo via Reuters

As VICE News reported yesterday, things in Ukraine have been heating up again — with pro-Russian separatist protesters in the eastern cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Luhansk unilaterally declaring independence, calling for Crimea-style referendums, setting stuff on fire, and occasionally clashing with opposing rallies of pro-Ukraine demonstrators.

On Tuesday, there was no sign things would calm down any time soon.

Kiev authorities were supposed to discuss introducing a state of emergency in those regions on Tuesday, but they themselves seemed to have a little trouble keeping cool.

The video below shows a fistfight that broke out in parliament as members voted to toughen punishment for separatism, imposing 5-year jail terms for anyone found guilty of “undermining Ukraine’s national security.”

Ukrainian members of parliament brawled on Tuesday.

The scuffle reportedly followed a speech by communist deputy Petro Symonenko, who accused nationalist delegates of serving Russia’s interests. Two members of the Svoboda far-right nationalist party didn’t appreciate the comment, and seized him while he was still talking. Then everyone else joined in.

Ukrainian politicians have made a bit of a habit of turning parliamentary sessions into bar brawls, but given the circumstances, this doesn’t bode too well for the Kiev government's prospects to get its stuff together and run the country as multiple regions try to break away.

But parliamentarians swinging fists at each other only mirrored what was already happening in streets and squares across the country.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, pro-Russian separatists and Euromaidan supporters clashed outside the local administration building on Monday evening.

The videos below show some of the clashes during which at least one person was injured. At least one gun can be seen in the footage, as well as improvised weapons and explosives. The last video shows one injured man being treated on the scene.

Local media footage shows clashes in Mykolaiv, on Monday.

In Kharkiv, there were also clashes between opposing camps on Monday. There, protesters seized a local administrative building and reportedly attempted to set it on fire.

By Tuesday Ukrainian officers regained control of that building, evicted protesters who had occupied it, and reportedly arrested some 70 people, acting Ukrainian president Oleksandr Turchynov told parliament. Several officers were injured in clashes with protesters, he said.

On his Facebook page, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called the police response to protesters in Kharkiv an “anti-terrorist operation.”

The video below shows Ukrainian security forces outside the regional administration building in Kharkiv, after they cleared it of pro-Russian protesters.

VIDEO

Ukrainian officials in Kharkiv secured an administrative building that was seized by protesters on Monday.

But in Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukrainian officers showed no plans to retake government buildings occupied by separatist protesters.

On the contrary, pro-Russian demonstrators in Donetsk seemed to solidify their control of the regional administration building with large barricades. The videos below show protesters accepting supporters’ cash contributions to the cause, as well as the interior of the building, where a map of the region of Donetsk was sprayed with the word “Russia.”

Photo via Reuters

Video shows Donetsk’s regional administration building, which was occupied by protesters.

Reports also emerged on Tuesday that separatists in Luhansk had placed explosives in a government building they seized there, and were holding dozens of people against their will.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter:@alicesperi