Pro-Moscow protesters seize arms in Ukraine, declare republic
Pro-Moscow protesters in eastern Ukraine have seized arms in one city and declared a separatist republic in another, in moves Kiev described as part of a Russian-orchestrated plan to justify an invasion to dismember the country.
Kiev said the overnight seizure of public buildings in three cities in eastern Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking industrial heartland were a replay of events in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow seized and annexed last month.
"An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation ... under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in public remarks to his cabinet. "We will not allow this."
Pro-Russian protesters seized official buildings in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk last night, demanding that referendums be held on whether to join Russia like the one that preceded Moscow's takeover of Crimea.
Acting President Oleksander Turchinov, in a televised address to the nation, said Moscow was attempting to repeat "the Crimea scenario". He added that "anti-terrorist measures" would be deployed against those who had taken up arms.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a phone call that Washington was watching events in eastern Ukraine with great concern and any further moves by Moscow to destabilize Ukraine would "incur further costs for Russia."
Kerry "called on Russia to publicly disavowed the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs" in Ukraine, the State Department said. The two discussed convening direct talks in the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union to defuse tensions.