December 21, 2014
Ukraine: Separatists build barricades in the east; Kiev warns of force
Pro-Russian separatists reinforced barricades around the state security building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk today and called on President Vladimir Putin for help after the government warned it could use force to restore order.
But protesters were also engaged in talks to ease the standoff, which Kiev has said could provide a pretext for a Russian invasion, and lawmakers from eastern Ukraine proposed an amnesty for protesters to defuse tension.
The former KGB headquarters is one of three government buildings seized this week in eastern Ukraine by protesters demanding regional referendums on independence from Kiev, like the one in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia.
Tensions have risen in the mainly Russian-speaking east since the overthrow of Ukraine's Moscow-backed president and the installation of a new pro-European government.
"Of course we must ask Russia to take us in because I don't see an alternative," said a man dressed in camouflage who gave his name as Vasiliy and said he was the commandant of the building. "Putin help us!" he said.
Sandbags and wooden crates were piled near the entrance of the building to defend it against the police. Men with rifles could be seen through broken windows above.
Local police spokeswoman Tatyana Pogukai said protesters had found an arsenal of weapons within the building. Protesters say they have 200-300 Kalashnikov automatic rifles. She denied previous reports that hostages had been taken.
She said negotiations had been carried out overnight but the two sides had not come to an agreement.
"They won't put down their weapons until there is agreement on a referendum," she said.
Protesters in Donetsk, to the south, remain in control of the main regional authority building, but authorities have ended the occupation in the city of Kharkiv.