MOSCOW, April 29 (RIA Novosti) – Self-defense forces in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk have taken control of a government building, the coordinator of the local people's community told RIA Novosti Tuesday.
“Yes, we confirm that the building has been taken. The police were shooting inside the courtyard, we are now taking them out and attempting to disarm them. We have called for them to lay down their arms and vacate the building whole and undamaged. The building is ours! That’s it!” protest leader Oleh Dereko said.
Ukrainian police are vacating the regional administrative building in Luhansk taken over by federalists, according to coverage shown on the RT television channel.
Representatives from the self-defense forces said that they had not planned to take the building over and that it happened “involuntarily” and with no injuries.
“An involuntary takeover of the building occurred. We were planning on going in peacefully, but the police wouldn’t let us enter. No one was injured, but there are some scrapes,” said one of the activists, Alexei Karyakin.
According to him, the activists “have no intentions of holding the building.”
“We’re not interested in that, we need the representatives of the law: the governor and deputies in order to hold negotiations,” he said.
The activists intend to protect the building from looters.
Several thousand federalization supporters gathered outside the national security service’s building in Luhansk Tuesday, demanding the release of political prisoners, the holding of a referendum, lowering prices and giving the Russian language an official status.
Activists said Sunday they would be forced to switch to an active phase of confrontation across the Luhank region unless Kiev complies with the demands. The deadline for the ultimatum is Tuesday.
Protesters declared the formation of an independent People’s Republic of Luhansk early Monday and announced plans to hold a referendum simultaneously with similar votes in eastern Ukraine’s cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk on May 11.
Federalization supporters in the country’s eastern cities have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government that took power as a result of a coup in February.