One of the last government facilities in Donetsk fell into the hands of Russian separatists Sunday as control of the eastern half of Ukraine continues to slip out of Kiev’s control.
Around 2,000 demonstrators stormed the lightly guarded military prosecutor’s office in the city as disinterested police officers looked on and showed no sign of wanting to intervene in the fracas.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Pro-Russian protesters now control nearly all official buildings in Donetsk, including the regional administration building and the Security Service station.
A separatist leader took control of the situation immediately after the takeover of the prosecutor’s office and strongly urged the activists to do no harm to the building and not take over anymore buildings for the day. The coordinator said that the separatists are now taking over at least one building a day in Donetsk.
“We capture at least one office building a day, thus depriving Kiev junta of its power base in the city and in the region,” the leader who identified himself as Miroslav Rudenko told the LA Times. “The military prosecutor’s office was one of the repressive tools taking orders from the criminal Kiev regime.”
The takeover of government buildings is part of a strategy to ensure a planned May 11 referendum to declare the region’s independence takes place and appears legitimate. This would be another striking blow to the new Ukrainian government that has already lost control of Crimea to Russia after the toppling of the pro-Russian regime of Viktor Yanukovych in February. Donetsk is considered to be the industrial heartland of Ukraine, and its separation could strike a devastating blow to the struggling country’s economy.
Similar unrest is also occurring in the neighboring Luhansk province, where armed, masked men have taken over government buildings in an effort to force a referendum vote.
It has been an especially bloody week in eastern Ukraine as dozens have died in clashes between pro-Russian groups attempting to seize official facilities and anti-Russian groups in the southeastern city of Odessa.