Putin, Come! Pro-Russia Crowd Occupies Government Building

Image: Pro-Russian demonstrators erect a Russian flag outside the regional government building in Donetsk
Pro-Russian demonstrators erect a Russian flag outside the regional government building in Donetsk on Monday.STRINGER / Reuters

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Pro-Russian demonstrators occupied the regional government building in east Ukraine's city of Donetsk on Monday, besieging lawmakers as they voted to support the protesters but stopped short of meeting their demands for a split from Kiev.

The chaotic scene in the heart of Ukraine's Russian-speaking east was one of the boldest actions yet by pro-Russian youths after several days of rallies in eastern and southern cities that Kiev says are organized by Moscow as a pretext to invade.

The protesters stormed the building and reached the second floor where the regional council sits, despite efforts to keep them out by switching off lifts and sealing stairwell doors.

The confrontation revealed a rift in the mainly Russian speaking region between locals who want less meddling from Kiev in local affairs and the protesters, who Ukraine says are led from Moscow and who are calling for the region to break away.

Hundreds of demonstrators, chanting "Putin, come!" entered the building through a side door after clashing with police guarding the front of the building, a Reuters photographer said. Windows were smashed, making it possible for some to reach the second floor.

The 11-story building has been flying the Russian flag, rather than the Ukrainian flag, for three days, with pro-Russian demonstrators staging daily rallies outside.

Barricaded inside the building, the local lawmakers voted 98-3 in favor of a declaration that pledged "support for the popular initiatives of the residents of the Donetsk region, put forward at demonstrations," according to a text of the resolution on the regional government website.

— Reuters