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Pro-Russia Protesters Storm Ukrainian Government Buildings

Sunday’s protests comes as several pro-Russia rallies have been held in eastern Ukrainian cities that border Russia in recent weeks.

by Leezel Tanglao
Apr 6 2014, 10:35pm

Photo by Reuters

Pro-Russia protesters stormed several Ukrainian government buildings in three different cities Sunday in an effort to initiate a referendum on joining Russia.

The protesters waving Russian flags seized a regional administration building in Donetsk, security offices in Luhansk, and an administrative building in Kharkiv, Reuters reported.

An estimated 1,500 participated in the Donetsk protest, where crowds were chanting “Russia! Russia!” as protesters broke into the administration building, according to witnesses.

On April 6, pro-Russian demonstrators seized the regional headquarters of the SBU state security service in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk.

It’s no surprise there was such a large crowd in Donetsk. For many there, a sense of alienation from the Kiev government and a stronger connection to Russia pervades.

“In Donetsk there is a separation in terms of poverty and wealth — poor people go to rallies for a strong hand, and for them that’s Russia,” Donetsk journalist Oleksiy Matsuka told VICE News in March, right before the annexation of Crimea by Russia. “The middle class are experiencing apathy, and for them the existence of a unified Ukraine is an indisputable fact.”

Division runs deep in Donetsk, mirroring Ukraine’s split. Read more here.

Ukrainian media reported the protesters in Luhansk were also calling for the release of 15 detained people suspected of planning to overthrow the Ukrainian government.

Sunday’s protests comes as several pro-Russia rallies have been held in recent weeks in eastern Ukrainian cities that border Russia.

US food aid is already being sold on black market websites in Ukraine. Read more here.

Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said order would be restored without any bloodshed, and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych of funding the unrest.

“Putin and Yanukovych ordered and paid for another round of separatist unrest in the East of the country-in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkov,” Avakov said in a translated version of his statement on his Facebook page.

Putin annexed and reclaimed Crimea as part of Russia on March 18.

Watch all of VICE News' dispatches, Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine here.