“(Reuters) – Police detained 70 pro-Moscow protesters occupying a regional administration building in eastern Ukraine overnight, but others held out in a standoff in two further cities in what Kiev says is a Russian-led plan to dismember the country.
Ukraine says the seizure of public buildings in its mainly Russian-speaking industrial heartland on Sunday night is a replay of events in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow annexed last month.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said protesters in the town of Kharkiv had been cleared in a lightning, 18 minute “anti-terrorist” operation, pinning responsibility for the building’s occupation on Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich.
“All this (in Kharkiv) was inspired and financed by the Putin-Yanukovich group,” said Avakov.
NATO warned Moscow on Tuesday of “grave consequences” to its relationship with the West if it intervened further in Ukraine.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed U.S. accusations that Moscow was destabilising Ukraine, saying the situation could improve only if the interests of Russian speakers were taken into account.
The pro-Russian protesters have been demanding that referendums be held on whether to join Russia like the vote, dismissed by the Kiev and West as illegal, that endorsed Crimea’s return to rule by Moscow.
An aide to Avakov said police went in when the Kharkiv protesters failed to give themselves up and surrender their arms. No shots were fired by the police, although some had been from the other side and a grenade was thrown, he said. One police officer was badly wounded and some others less seriously hurt.
The standoff however continued in the mining center of Donetsk – Yanukovich’s home base – where a group of pro-Russian deputies inside the main regional authority building on Monday declared a separatist republic…..”Twitter