Pro-Russian Protesters In Donetsk Seek Independence From Ukraine

Russia Crimea Demonstration

Protesters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Doentsk seem to want to follow in the footsteps of Crimea:

Pro-Russian protesters who seized the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine are reported to have declared a “people’s republic”.

Footage online showed a Russian speaker telling the assembly “I proclaim the creation of the sovereign state of the People’s Republic of Donetsk.”

The rebels are reported to have called a referendum on forming a new republic.

Earlier on Monday, protesters seized state security buildings in both Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Luhansk security building’s weapons arsenal was raided, police say.

BBC correspondents in Ukraine report that the separatists who proclaimed an independent republic were not local councillors. The protesters want to hold a referendum by 11 May.

The Donetsk’s regional government building was seized on Sunday, along with another in Kharkiv, also in Ukraine’s east.

Protesters broke into Donetsk’s regional government building, and another in Kharkiv, on Sunday. Ukrainian authorities say protesters have now left the government building in Kharkiv.

Unconfirmed reports by Ukrainian news agency Unian also say gunmen tried to storm a Donetsk TV building on Monday, but were deterred by police.

At an emergency Cabinet meeting, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed Russia for the seizures.

“The plan is to destabilise the situation, the plan is for foreign troops to cross the border and seize the country’s territory, which we will not allow,” he said, adding that people engaged in the unrest have distinct Russian accents.

He said Russian troops remain stationed within 30 kilometres (19 miles) of the frontier. The city of Luhansk is just 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Russia.

Much like Crimea, the eastern region of Ukraine has a significant population that is ethnically Russian and/or pro-Russian in political sympathies. At the same time, of course, it would be logical to assume that these protests are not exactly spontaneous.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    it would be logical to assume that these protests are not exactly spontaneous

    Of course not, no one would prefer to live in Russia if they can live in the benevolently governed, corruption free, and economically stable Ukraine. The stories about a fascist nationalist party running things in Kiev are all just Soviet-style propaganda.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Just an absolute mess, out of which there is no easy path. For anyone. I wonder if Putin is sorry he stirred up this pot yet?

  3. KM says:

    What happens if Russia doesn’t want them? Be honest, Crimea is for the resources and the access, not the ethnicity. What does Donetsk have to would make them worth Putin’s time?

  4. Mu says:

    The Donetsk basin was one of THE major industrialized areas of the former USSR. Crimea was strictly for strategic military reasons, Donetsk is prime industrial real estate.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    @Mu: This. Donetsk is the cream of the crop. One or two of the other cities along the east are sites of historical WW2 battles won by the Soviets which they’d probably also want back.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    This returns us to the question that’s been bedevilling us for a century: what’s the unit of measure of self-determination? If Ukrainians have a right of self-determination, do the residents of Crimea or Donetsk do, too, and why? If the residents of Donetsk have such a right, do the residents of the southwest block of Valutina Ave.?