DONETSK, Ukraine -- A deadline set by the Ukrainian government for pro-Russian gunmen to leave government buildings in eastern Ukraine and surrender weapons passed early Monday, with no immediate sign of any action to force the insurgents out.
Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov issued a decree Sunday that those protesters who disarm and vacate government offices in several cities in the Russian-leaning east of the country by 0600 GMT Monday will not be prosecuted. Turchynov vowed that a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" would take place to re-establish control over those areas and that the fate of the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia last month, will not be repeated.
There was no immediate comment from the government on the deadline passing.
But Serhiy Taruta, governor of the Donetsk region, where government buildings in several cities, including the regional capital Donetsk, have been seized by pro-Russian gunmen, said an anti-terrorist operation was underway in the region, according to the Interfax news agency.
Taruta did not give any details of what the anti-terrorist operation would entail. The governor usually does not have authority to launch anti-terrorist measures on his own and he was likely acting on the orders of top security officials in Kiev.
Taruta said the anti-terrorism measures were aimed at "protecting the peace and order on our land, which today is being taken away from us by armed, aggressive fanatics," he was quoted as saying. "They are terrorists and we will not let them rule on our land." He did not provide any details of the operation.
The West has accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest. Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, claimed that the Kiev government was coordinating its actions with the CIA.
Russia has warned the Kiev government against using force against the protesters in the east.
- The Associated Press
First published April 14 2014, 1:17 AM