Tag Archives: Kharkov

Kiev backpedals on referendums after deadline to stop protest expires

Ukraine federalization supporters carrying sand sacks for building barricades around the building of the regional administration in Donetsk on April 10, 2014.

Ukraine federalization supporters carrying sand sacks for building barricades around the building of the regional administration in Donetsk on April 10, 2014.

Just after a deadline set by Kiev for protesters in eastern Ukraine to vacate seized buildings expired, Parliament-appointed PM Arseny Yatsenyuk pledged to push through a law allowing regional referendums in the country.

Holding referendums on the status of their respective regions was among the main demands posed by anti-Maidan activists, who have taken over a number of governmental buildings in eastern Ukraine this week.

Ukrainian law currently does not allow regions to hold referendums separately from the rest of the country. It was one of the main arguments Kiev voiced in declaring illegal last month’s referendum in Crimea, which ended with the peninsula’s seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Speaking in Donetsk, one of the regions engulfed by the anti-Kiev protests, Yatsenyuk said his government wants greater autonomy for Ukrainian regions, including the abolition of the offices of capital-appointed governors.

He was speaking just as a 48-hour deadline, which Kiev gave to protesters to liberate the seized buildings, expired. Previously the central authorities threatened to use force, including that of the military and even threatened their opponents as terrorists, unless they withdrew from the buildings.

Arseny Yatsenyuk

The U-turn comes after Ukraine’s elite Alpha unit reportedly refused to obey an order to besiege protester-held buildings. At a session of law enforcement officials in Donetsk, one of the Alpha commanders said that he and his men are a force intended for rescuing hostages and fighting terrorism and will only act in accordance with the law, local media reported.

The unconfirmed act of defiance comes days after the siege by police of a protesters-seized building in Kharkov, which ended with dozens of activists being arrested. On Thursday, a local police lieutenant-colonel spoke to the media, claiming that he and other officers had been deceived by the Kiev authorities. He claimed that they were sent to take over the building under the pretext that it was held by dangerous armed bandits. In fact the protesters had only improvised clubs and offered no resistance to the storming troops.

The officer, Andrey Chuikov, said he would no longer take “criminal” orders and announced his resignation from the police, adding that he would be sacked anyway by his superiors for speaking to the press.

Discontent with the new authorities in Kiev, which has been brewing in eastern and southern Ukraine for weeks, escalated on Monday, as protesters in several cities started to take over governmental buildings. Protests took place in the cities of Donetsk, Kharkov and Lugansk, while smaller protest actions and some clashes were reported in Odessa and Nikolayev.

Pro-Russian protesters hold placards during their rally outside the regional state administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on April 10, 2014.

Donetsk activists remain in control of the regional administration building and have built three lines of barricades to defend themselves from a possible siege. They have declared the Donetsk region, which is home to about one-tenth of the population of Ukraine, a “people’s republic” and have demanded a referendum on its future status. They also declared forming a “people’s army” in response to threats from violence form Kiev.

Negotiations between the activists and the Kiev-appointed authorities of the region were held on Thursday and into Friday morning. They are trying to hammer out a deal to deescalate the tension, which includes some sort of joint patrols formed by police and the activists of Donetsk and a possible relocation of the protesters to a nearby building.

In Lugansk, activists are maintaining their hold on a Ukrainian Security Service office. They also cordoned off a base of the Interior Ministry’s troops on Thursday night, saying this would prevent their deployment for a crackdown on the protest, although later the blockade was lifted.

Meanwhile, in Kharkov, where police on Tuesday captured a regional administration building and took more than 50 activists into custody, the protests do not seem to be calming down. On Thursday evening several hundred people picketed the building, despite a court ban on doing so. A mass protest rally is scheduled for Sunday.

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​Kiev orders ‘state protection’ of protester-held govt HQ in Donetsk

Ukraine’s coup-imposed president Aleksandr Turchinov has ordered the protester-held local govt HQ in Donetsk to be taken under ‘state protection’ as armed personnel and armored vehicles have been reported moving into the eastern region of Ukraine.

According to a decree signed by Turchinov, the local administration building in Donetsk and surrounding territory is an “important government facility, which is a subject to state protection.”

The decree entered into force upon signature and Turchinov has already given Ukraine’s state security service appropriate directions, Itar-Tass reports.

Ukraine’s acting interior minister Arsen Avakov stated earlier on Wednesday that a “special police task force” had already arrived in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov from western regions of Ukraine and was ready to take them under control within 48 – using force, if needed.

The buildings of power structures in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Lugansk remain under control of the protesters. While so far there have been no attempts to recapture the occupied buildings, activists continue building barricades preparing for a possible attack by forces shipped in from other regions of Ukraine.

People are burning bonfires to stay warm in front of the barricades and singing songs to keep up their spirits, with Russian and regional flags waiving in the background. Many women and elderly people are among those on nightwatch in the center of city.

“We will be on duty here all night, because the assault could begin at any moment,” one of the activists told Ria Novosti. Thousands more people are ready to stand up against attackers at the first call of those keeping watch around the perimeter. Several times over the last few days activists assembled to train their response to emergency situations.

Activists expect the military operation to take place overnight in Donetsk and Lugansk simultaneously. Local administration in Kharkov was already stormed on Tuesday by armed men without insignia and masked law enforcement officers, after the local police in Kharkov refused to fulfil orders from Kiev.

About a hundred fighters from the newly-formed Ukraine’s National Guard reportedly arrived in the airport of Donetsk, the deputy director of a local group called People’s Militia of Donbas, Sergey Tsyplakov, told Ria Novosti.

“In Donetsk airport about a hundred of people from the National Guard have been housed,” Tsyplakov said. “Around a hundred of Right Sector thugs are also in the city, as well as a hundred employees from a private US military company operating under contract with Kiev junta.”

“Totally around 300 professionals or well-trained and motivated fanatics,” Tsyplakov added. “This is a major force, but we are ready to fight.”

Earlier in the day, pro-federalization activists in Donetsk blocked two busses carrying unbadged armed men in camouflage near the military commissariat. According to Tsyplakov activists believe they were mercenaries but were unable to identify gunmen as they kept silent and refused to answer any questions.

In the meantime, Ukrainian personnel and armored vehicles were spotted moving closer to the city of Donetsk. Amateur videos posted on YouTube show that locals were trying to stop machinery from progressing further.

Protests against the new government in Kiev have been continuing in eastern Ukraine for weeks now. On Monday, popular assemblies in Donetsk and Kharkov, where local administration headquarters were captured by protesters, declared independence from Ukraine and announced the creation of the independent Donetsk People’s Republic and Kharkov People’s Republic.

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Kiev cracks down on eastern Ukraine after 2 regions proclaim independence

A pro-Russian militant holding a bat guards a barricade in front of the Donetsk regional administration building on April 8, 2014.

 A pro-Russian militant holding a bat guards a barricade in front of the Donetsk regional administration building on April 8, 2014.

Dozens have been arrested as Kiev authorities launched a crackdown on anti-Maidan activists in cities of eastern Ukraine that attempted to declare their independence.

At least 70 activists have been arrested after a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” launched by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry in the eastern city of Kharkov.

According to the country’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, “the building of the regional state administration is totally free of the separatists who seized it earlier.”

On Monday, Kharkov protesters erected barricades around administrative buildings and the regional headquarters of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). The demonstrators soon took control of the building.

This was followed by clashes with police who reportedly unleashed fire-hoses, stun grenades and tear gas to push the crowd back from the building. In response, protesters threw several Molotov cocktails at the building and set a pile of tires on fire. The blaze soon spread to the first floor of the building.

Eventually, a group of local police outside the administration building moved in to push protesters back, allowing fire crews to extinguish the blaze. The building was slightly damaged by the blaze and several windows were broken in the scuffles.

Activists at the scene said the law enforcement officers who used force against protesters had been deployed from western Ukraine. According to some witnesses, the violence was initially triggered by a group of provocateurs.

Despite the crackdown, a group of at least 150 people gathered in front of Kharkov’s administration building Tuesday to protest against the new authorities in Kiev.

Donetsk

Ukraine’s southeast has been seeing weekly anti-Maidan demonstrations.

In Donetsk, activists proclaimed the creation of a People’s Republic of Donetsk after seizing the local administration building.

This action on Monday was also followed by a special operation. Police took weapons seized by the protesters in the SBU’s regional headquarters, Donetsk Mayor Aleksandr Lukyanchenko said.

A woman raises her fist as pro-Russians demonstrate in front of the Donetsk regional administration building, held by pro-Russian militants, on April 8, 2014.

Ukrainian media however report that the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk has ceased to exist.

“The Committee on Patriotic forces of Donbass has been receiving numerous calls from the public voicing their disagreement with the proclamation of the republic and its joining the neighboring state as well as conducting a referendum – all those without a legal base in place,” Ukrainskaya Pravda daily cited the committee said as saying.

The proclamation and referendum plans were thus annulled till the legal base is created, the committee said. The group’s original posting on Facebook has become unavailable.

Lugansk, Nikolaev, Dnepropetrovsk

On Tuesday, protesters gathered in Lugansk – also outside the regional department of the SBU. Interfax-Ukraine reported that the protesters were setting up barricades and pouring flammable mixtures on them.

The speakers at the demonstration called for the creation of a parliament of the Lugansk republic, choosing new MPs and establishing a new government. Calls for an independence referendum were also heard.

On Monday, clashes erupted in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikolaev after at least 300 activists attempted to storm the city administration building. The protesters were also trying to remove the Ukrainian flag from the administration building. Police reportedly used rubber bullets to force the crowd back from the building.

At least 15 people have been injured, with 11 of them were admitted to hospital, and more than 20 arrested, the city’s Health Department reported.

An elderly woman looks at the Russian flag set up by pro-Russian activists at a barricade blocking access to the Ukrainian Security Service building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on April 8, 2014.

After pro-Russian demonstrators expressed their discontent with Kiev authorities in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, the city authorities moved to negotiate with the anti-government activists.

According to the region’s deputy governor, Boris Filatov, both the “left-wing” and the pro-Russian protesters agreed to refrain from “calls for separatist actions.” In return, the authorities said they will let the activists use some offices in the administrative buildings for their “meetings and work,” as well as provide them with “free access” to local printed media.

Meanwhile, Russia has called on Kiev and Washington not to ignore the interests of all of Ukraine’s regions, including those in southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced concerns over the build-up of Ukrainian forces and US mercenaries in southeastern parts of the country, calling on Kiev to immediately cease military preparations which could lead to a civil war.

According to Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, the coup-appointed government in Ukraine has not made any positive steps towards these regions and the people there “fear that their interests are being ignored by Kiev.”

 

 

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Massive anti-Maidan rallies grip eastern Ukraine as residents demand referendum

Pro-Russian protesters hold a banner reading “Odessa for referendum!” stage a rally in the center of the Ukrainian city of Odessa on March 23, 2014

Rallies have swept eastern Ukraine, with residents protesting against Kiev’s coup-imposed government and demanding a referendum to decide on the future of the region. Thousands took to the streets in Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, and Odessa on Sunday.

About 5,000 protesters gathered in the city of Kharkov on Sunday to rally in favor of federalizing the country and holding people’s referendums in eastern Ukraine.

The demonstrators also demanded to make Russian the official language of the Kharkov region. Russian is the most common first language in the eastern regions.

Furthermore, the residents of Kharkov proclaimed illegitimate the political part of the EU-Ukraine association agreement signed by coup-installed Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. Some of the protesters headed to the Russian embassy, asking Moscow to investigate the legality of the presence of NATO troops in Ukraine and addressed Crimeans, asking to help the region.

The rally in Kharkov was also dedicated to two protesters who were killed last week by members of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement, which played an active role in the Maidan protests. The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Glory to Kharkov defendants!” and “We won’t live under Bandera!”

Stepan Bandera was the head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Bandera’s nationalist movement collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews, and Russians. OUN was also responsible for the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, which resulted in about 100,000 murders.

Meanwhile in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk, preliminary results of an improvised referendum were announced to a several thousands-strong rally.

According to the results, over 100,000 people voted in favor of joining Russia in a people’s referendum that was carried out in the form of a poll in Lugansk.

The poll was initiated last Sunday and will continue for another week.

Another 1,000 people gathered near the building of the regional security service, protesting against the current authorities in Kiev.

The city of Donetsk, also located in the Donbass region, also witnessed protests on Sunday, as more than 2,000 people took to the streets. They demanded that a referendum be held to decide the future of the region and handed out ballot papers.

Pro-Russian protesters shout slogans during a rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 23, 2014

housands also gathered for a rally in the Black Sea coastal city of Odessa on Sunday, protesting against the coup-imposed government in Kiev. They carried Ukranian, Russian, and Crimean flags and chanted slogans such as “Ukraine and Russia are together” and “Odessa is against Nazis and tycoons,” as well as “Referendum!”

The peaceful demonstrators urged authorities to release Anton Davidchenko, the arrested leader of People’s Alternative, a council that coordinates the work of regional public organizations. They demanded an end to the persecution of activists accused of separatism.

Davidchenko’s mother, Lubov, who participated in the rally, urged all mothers in Ukraine to “prevent their sons from going to the criminal war, which the West-backed far-right authorities and tycoons in Kiev are trying to unleash between the fraternal Slavic peoples in the interests of their Western sponsors,” Itar-Tass reported.

“The authorities in Kiev are speaking about war with Russia, but in fact they are at war with their own people. The majority of Ukrainians do not support [Kiev’s] policy, but Kiev prefers not to pay attention to the people’s opinion, retaliating with repressions,” stated city council deputy Sergey Bovbolan.

Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags along with the flags of the Donetsk region during a rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 23, 2014

Speakers at the rally called for an end to the disinformation campaign waged by local media, and for authorities to stop putting pressure on TV channels.

A crowd comprised of thousands of Odessa residents walked through the central streets, visiting the Polish embassy to remind them of Bandera’s crimes.

Poland, Ukraine’s western neighbor, has been very vocal during the crisis, supporting the current far-right Kiev authorities. The country also hosts the US military. The Pentagon dispatched 12 warplanes and hundreds of troops to Poland following the Crimean referendum.

The decision to hold a referendum in Crimea was sparked by the bloody Maidan protests that resulted in the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich. Crimea refused to recognize the coup-imposed government. The referendum held last Sunday resulted in over 96 percent of voters answering in favor of the autonomous republic joining Russia. In turn, Russia accepted the people’s will and welcomed Crimea’s integration on Monday.

People in the eastern regions of Ukraine fear that the far-right Kiev authorities will not represent their interests. Residents of the Donbass region – the majority of whom are Russian speakers – were particularly unhappy over parliament’s decision to revoke the law allowing the use of minority languages, including Russian.

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Ukraine’s east on fire: Kharkov demands referendum, Donetsk prosecutor’s HQ stormed

People carry a giant Russian flag during a pro-Russian rally in Kharkiv March 16, 2014.

Demonstrators in Kharkov, north-east Ukraine, have appealed to Russia to pass to the UN their demands over a referendum on the federalization, while hundreds of protesters in Donetsk stormed a prosecutor’s office demanding to free a local “governor”.

As Crimea decides on its future in a referendum, Sunday in eastern Ukraine was marked by a fresh series of pro-Russian rallies.

In Kharkov, the country’s second-largest city, between 1,500 to 3,000 protesters gathered on the central square demanding a referendum on federalizing Ukraine.

“Our city has been Russian and will remain such albeit within Ukraine. We are ready to live in a single country but on our terms,” one of the activists, leader of Civic Platform movement Yury Apukhtin announced from a stage, as cited by Itar-Tass.

After the so-called “popular assembly”, the crowd of demonstrators – chanting pro-Russian slogans and carrying a huge 100-meter long tricolor – proceeded to Russia’s consulate general where they handed over a letter addressed to President Vladimir Putin.

Protesters, on behalf of Kharkov’s assembly, asked Putin to “guarantee their rights and freedoms” and pass to the United Nations their demands regarding a referendum on the federalization, which they plan for April 27, reported Ukrainian National News (UNN) website. Additionally, activists asked to deploy Russian peacekeepers to Kharkov region, adding that they fear for their lives and property.

The demonstrators then marched to the nearby consulate of Poland, protesting against Western interference into Ukrainian affairs.

Kharkov protesters also looted the building housing offices of radical-nationalist organizations, including the Right Sector group, reported Interfax-Ukraine. The activists broke into the building, took out books and nationalist symbols and burnt them.

Pro-Russian activists hold giant Russian flags during their rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 16, 2014.

Donetsk rally demands release of ‘people’s governor’

Several thousand pro-Russian protesters took to the streets in Donetsk, a large industrial city in eastern Ukraine.

The demonstrators demanded that the parliament, Verkhovna Rada “remove from power the illegitimate Cabinet and cancel its decision,” cited Itar-Tass. They also urge the creation of a new coalition government, the composition of which would be agreed with the people. Protesters said it was necessary to go back to the February 21 agreement on the crisis settlement, which was signed by ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders and provides for early parliamentary and presidential elections.

Among other demands is giving Russian language a status of a second official tongue and an investigation of killings of law enforcers and protesters on Kiev’s Maidan Square in February.

Pro-Russian demonstrators scuffle with police during a rally in Donetsk March 16, 2014

A crowd of up to 2,000 people reportedly stormed the regional Prosecutor’s Office, demanding to free “people’s governor” Pavel Gubarev. The political activist – who was spontaneously proclaimed the governor during a demonstration on March 1 – was detained on March 6 on charges of violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, takeover of power, and seizure of government buildings.

Demonstrators broke into in the building, smashed windows, tore off and threw away the Ukrainian national flag and replaced it with Russian, according to Interfax.

Activists also reportedly entered into the office of a company owned by oligarch Sergey Taratuta, the head of the regional administration appointed to the post by Kiev authorities. Protesters stated that they consider the governor illegitimate, reported RIA Novosti. Having not found Taratuta in the building, protesters then marched to the regional administration office.

Meanwhile, Kiev sent heavy military hardware to the borders with Russia. Activists in eastern Ukraine regions, including Donetsk and Lugansk, were reportedly blocking trains delivering military equipment from the central and western parts of Ukraine.

Pro-Russian activists hold Russian flags and flags with the colours of the ribbon of Saint George, a Russian military decoration, as they storm the prosecutor’s office in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 16, 2014

Riot police stand guard in front of a regional government building as pro-Russian demonstrators take part in a rally in Kharkiv March 16, 2014

 RT News

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Ukraine’s Southeast seeks to restore constitutional order, thousands gather in Kharkov

The public gathering of deputies from local councils of southeastern Ukraine have declared they are taking responsibility for constitutional order in the country, as thousands of people have assembled in the city of Kharkov.

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“We, the local authorities of all levels, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sevastopol region decided to take responsibility for ensuring the constitutional order and the rights of citizens on their territory,” their resolution said.

The Kharkov public gathering has announced a number of measures local authorities should take in response to the developments in Kiev. They should take full responsibility for all decision in respective regions with no regard to authorities in Kiev until the constitutional order in Ukraine is restored, a resolution of the gathering says.

They authorities should take measures to protect arms depots and prevent their take-over and looting by radical opposition activists.

The deputies have criticized the decision adopted by the Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) in the last few days, saying they are raising doubts about its legitimacy.

The gathering says the legislative acts may have been passed involuntary and are neither legitimate nor lawful.

The resent decisions of the national parliament were taken in conditions “of terror, threats of violence and death,” the resolution says.

Meanwhile, citizens are encouraged to form local militias to protect public order. Local authorities are to fund and support those militias.

Over 10, 000 people have gathered at the city’s Sport Palace, where a total of 3,477 deputies have been holding a meeting.

The situation remains generally quiet with the crowd being partly in good spirits and partly subdued and concerned, Itar-Tass news agency reports from the Palace.

“3, 477 deputies from local councils in southeastern Ukraine have gathered. We have gathered here not to separate the country, but to save it,” the regional governor, Mikhail Dobkin, told the crowd.

The head of the Kharkov administration, Gennady Kernes, has called the public gathering “an attempt by qualified deputies from the east of the country to stabilize the situation.”

“My colleagues and I have been personally threatened. But today we have gathered to change the situation,” he said. “We will not give in; we will fight till the end.”

The statement has been echoed by Rada’s Party of Regions deputy, Vadim Kolesnichenko, who also said that politicians are being threatened and “their families are basically hostages [of the situation].”

Russia sent several officials in the capacity of observers to the gathering, including Aleksey Pushkov, the head of Russian parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, Mikhail Markelov, Pushkov’s counterpart in the Council of Federation, the upper chamber of the parliament, and several governors from regions in eastern Russia.

“The decisions taken here are positive and concrete. What is important is that everything voiced here was implemented in the interests of the Ukrainian people and the entire Ukraine. What Ukraine needs now is common sense and a survival instinct,” said Evgeny Savchenko, Governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, commenting on the Kharkov gathering.

Meanwhile, parliament (Verkhovna Rada) is holding a new emergency session on Saturday. While the whereabouts of Ukrainian President Yanukovich remain uncertain, opposition leaders passed the law on the return to the 2004 Constitution without the president’s signature.

They have also elected Aleksandr Turchinov the new head speaker of the Supreme Rada. He will be taking over the cabinet’s work until the formation of a coalition government.

Among new appointees is Arsen Avakov, who was named the acting head of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine.

With 233 voting in favor, the Ukrainian Rada has ruled to free the former PM Yulia Timoshenko from prison.

A day after Yanukovich agreed to opposition demands and signed an EU brokered deal, his residence in Kiev was abandoned and left virtually unguarded. Some media reports speculate that the president has left for Kharkov in the east of the country.

Ukraine’s Southeast seeks to restore constitutional order, thousands gather in Kharkov — RT News.