Ukraine gunmen seize two buildings in Sloviansk

Armed men have seized a police station and a security services building in eastern Ukraine, officials say.

Police said the men fired shots and used stun grenades to seize the offices in Sloviansk, near the Russian border.

The interior minister called the gunmen “terrorists” and said special forces would repel the attack.

Pro-Russian activists have seized government buildings elsewhere in east Ukraine. Kiev accuses Moscow of orchestrating the unrest.

Interim Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchytsia urged Moscow to end “provocative” actions by its agents.

Eastern Ukraine has a large Russian-speaking population and has seen a series of protests since the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

Protesters in largely Russian-speaking Donetsk, 130km (80 miles) from Sloviansk, have been occupying government buildings for days and demanding a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

A similar move prompted a Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region earlier this year.

The US and EU have put sanctions on Russian and Crimean people they say were connected with the takeover.

Russia has denied responsibility for the protests in eastern Ukraine, but Western nations have expressed concern over a build-up of Russian troops along the border.

Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk visited Donetsk on Friday and attempted to placate anti-government groups by guaranteeing that no restrictions would be put on the use of the Russian language.

The Kiev government had set a deadline of Friday for all occupations to end, but trouble continued in several cities in the east.

Regional police spokesman Ihor Dyomin described how armed men were bussed to the police station in Sloviansk.

“Six or seven unknown persons got out. They fired several shots in the air and attempted to storm the police department,” he said.

He added that “people in camouflage uniform” and with weapons” were inside the building.

Interim Interior Minister Arsen Avakov promised to deal with the attackers.

“The response will be very tough because there is a difference between protesters and terrorists,” he said in Ukrainian on hisFacebook page.

The Interior Ministry said the aim of the attack was to seize arms from the police station, where some 40 automatic rifles and 400 pistols were stored along with ammunition.

The occupation by pro-Russian groups of the local government building in Donetsk is meanwhile continuing.

Alexander Gnezdilov, the protesters’ unofficial spokesperson, told the BBC the group that seized Sloviansk police HQ was “an independent group who are supporting the Donetsk protest”.

Also on Saturday, hundreds of pro-Russian protesters marched towards a police station in Donetsk.

They have threatened to storm the building unless the city’s police chief resigns.

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