The Kharkiv administration building was occupied by pro-Russian demonstrators on April 6. Police say they regained control early on April 8 without firing gunshots, although they say the activists injured three officers with gunshots.

Late on April 7, a small group of pro-Russian separatists proclaimed the Peoples’ Republic of Kharkiv, independent of the rule of the central Ukrainian government Kyiv. They announced they were going to hold a referendum on Kharkiv Oblast joining Russia and sought support from former President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian authorities.

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Pro-Russian protesters argue with Ukrainian policemen standing guard in font of the Kharkiv regional state administration building on April 8, 2014. Ukrainian policemen were injured as a result of an operation to free the administration building from pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine’s acting president said on April 8 he would treat Russian separatists who have seized buildings in the east of the country as “terrorists” who will be prosecuted with the full force of the law. AFP PHOTO/ ANATOLIY STEPANOV

Earlier this week, a group of separatists proclaimed the same in Donetsk Oblast, but the decision was promptly canceled on April 8.

The masked separatists in Kharkiv reportedly had access to machine guns. An eyewitness of the separatist demonstrators’ actions, Zinoviy Flionts, described what he saw as “crazy.”

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“Police were doing nothing at all, they were just walking amid the (separatist) thugs. The guys who took over the administration were either some Russians or simply criminals brought from somewhere. There were also many women among them,” Flionts said.

Speaking in parliament, independent lawmaker Oleksandr Doniy also claimed that Kharkiv police weren’t properly reacting to the actions of separatists and said that police squads from other regions had to be brought in to free the occupied buildings.

Earlier, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov reported the administration office was freed on the morning of April 7, which turned out to be not true.

In Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists ousted from SBU, but still control regional government headquarters

In Donetsk, police freed the regional Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) office from control by separatist activists and have surrounded the regional government administration building, which has been held by the protesters since April 6.

Clashes in Mykolayiv

On the night of April 7, pro-Russian protesters attempted to take over the administration building in thesouthern city of Mykolayiv, but clashed with some self-defense activists and failed. Some 10 people were injured in the fight.

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Pro-Russian separatists still control SBU office in Luhansk

In Luhansk, pro-Russian activists continue to hold the local SBU office taken over on April 6. The activists were reported to claim some guns found in the armory room in SBU. Parliament’s Doniy said there were some 300 machine guns in the armory. 

Independent lawmaker Oleh Lyashko, who spent a day in Luhansk assesing the situation, added that there were some grenades, too.

“The armory room was mined when they came, and they de-mined it before taking the guns. Tell me, how many citizens can de-mine a room? It proves that those are not regular protesters, those are terrorists and special forces officers,” Lyashko said, speaking in parliament on April 8.

In response to the ongoing separatist unrest in the east, parliament on April 8 adopted the law that increases responsibility for crimes against Ukraine’s integrity.

The law determines punishment up to 15 years in jail or life imprisonment for actions that endanger Ukraine’s unity and integrity. Taking over airports or other transport stations will be punished with eight years in jail, or 15 years if the takeover caused deaths.

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Head of Svoboda parliament faction Oleh Tyahnybok demanded that Ukraine start requiring visas from Russian citizens to entur the nation in order “to stop the flow of Russian provocateurs coming to Ukraine.” However, parliament didn’t take any steps in that direction yet.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns about radical members of nationalist organization Right Sector allegedly being sent to eastern region from Kyiv to suppress the separatist movements. The ministry also claimed that some 150 special forces’ officers from U.S. were brought to Donetsk, disguised as Ukrainian soldiers.

Kyiv Post editor Olga Rudenko can be reached at [email protected]. Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko contributed to the story.

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