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Pro-Ukraine Demonstration in Donetsk Turns Violent

Image: Ukrainian police try to stop a pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian supporter during clashes at a pro-Ukrainian rally in Donetsk

Ukrainian police try to stop a pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian supporter during clashes at a pro-Ukrainian rally in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine April 28, 2014. BAZ RATNER / Reuters

DONETSK, Ukraine — A demonstration organized by pro-Ukrainian groups in this eastern city became violent when masked men attacked with bats and tear gas late Monday.

Dozens of men dressed in military fatigues and wielding baseball bats waded into the rally of some 2,000 people in Donetsk, heart of a separatist uprising against Kiev, according to Reuters. They lobbed fire-crackers and what appeared to be at least one stun grenade.

Some of the baseball bat-wielding militants were wearing "People's Republic of Donetsk" shirts. A few pro-Ukraine riot police chased them but most either froze or scattered. The chaos lasted about 10 minutes.

Image: Pro-Russian protesters attack a pro-Ukranian protester during a pro-Ukraine rally in the eastern city of Donetsk
Pro-Russian protesters attack a pro-Ukranian protester during a pro-Ukraine rally in the eastern city of Donetsk April 28, 2014. MARKO DJURICA / Reuters

An NBC News team that got caught up in the melee also heard loud explosions and saw people with blood on their faces. A producer for NBC News partner ITN was hit in the back of the head with a brick and was sent to the hospital for evaluation.

A woman who said she was organizing medical care for the wounded said that five people suffered head injuries and were taken to the hospital, two more injured and not taken to the hospital and another five people were unaccounted for.

The rally, during which people chanted "Donetsk is Ukraine!" and waved the Ukrainian flag, dispersed after the violence.

Image: UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-CRISIS-DONETSK-DEMONSTRATION
Pro-Russia militiants hold flares as they attack people marching at a rally for Ukrainian national unity in the eastern Ukrainan city of Donetsk on April 28, 2014. ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY / AFP - Getty Images

Meanwhile, the mayor of Ukraine's second biggest city was shot in the back on Monday, the highest profile assassination attempt in eastern Ukraine since a standoff between Moscow and Kiev began two months ago.

Gennady Kernes underwent two hours of surgery after the attack in Kharkiv, one eastern city where police have managed to dislodge pro-Moscow rebels.

Surgeon Valery Boiko said his life would hang in the balance for the next few days.

Kernes, 54, went into politics after making his fortune in the gangster-ridden post-communist 1990s.

After protesters toppled pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in February, he supported calls for Kharkiv to become independent from Kiev's new, pro-European leaders.

— with Reuters

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