Skip to main content

Ukraine crisis: Gunmen seize buildings in eastern towns, Kerry talks with Lavrov

By Tim Lister, Nick Paton Walsh and Chandrika Narayan, CNN
updated 9:32 PM EDT, Sat April 12, 2014
A man looks at a bullet shell next to a destroyed car after a gunfight between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces in Karlivka, Ukraine, on Friday, May 23. Much of Ukraine's unrest has been centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where separatists have claimed independence from the government in Kiev. A man looks at a bullet shell next to a destroyed car after a gunfight between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces in Karlivka, Ukraine, on Friday, May 23. Much of Ukraine's unrest has been centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where separatists have claimed independence from the government in Kiev.
HIDE CAPTION
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
Crisis in Ukraine
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Secretary of State Kerry speaks to Russian foreign minister
  • Joe Biden to travel to Kiev later this month
  • Unidentified gunmen seize buildings in the eastern Ukraine town of Slaviansk
  • Pro-Russian protesters have taken over buildings in other cities in the region in past days

Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN) -- Pro-Russian gunmen seized buildings in eastern Ukraine, as new flashpoints developed in the ongoing crisis over the region's future.

As tensions rose, acting President Oleksandr Turchinov held an emergency National Defense and Security Council meeting Saturday evening in the capital Kiev, according to the President's press office.

In the eastern city of Kramatorsk, police and pro-Russia activists exchanged gunfire, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov's spokeswoman, Natalia Stativko, told CNN on Saturday.

Slightly north, in the town of Slaviansk, gunmen in camouflage stormed and seized a police building early Saturday, authorities said.

Pro-Russian gunmen seize building
NATO: Pics show Russian military buildup
Ukrainian citizens carry cost of conflict
Russian separatists in Donetsk dig in
Pro-Russian crowds dwindle in Luhansk

They arrived in two mini-buses, came to the police station and opened fire at the building before getting inside the facility through windows, the Donetsk regional police press office said. Three police officers were slightly injured.

The gunmen introduced themselves as part of the Donetsk republic initiative group, police said.

Their goal was to seize hundreds of weapons inside the police building; they allowed the police officers inside to leave the facility, the press office said.

A CNN team in Slaviansk saw dozens of armed, well-equipped men in camouflage in control of the Ukraine Security Services (SBU) building, as well as the police building. The men did not want to be filmed. Makeshift barricades have been erected around both buildings. Locals brought food and tires to the armed men at the SBU site.

"We're for democracy, for the rights of the people to express their will," one pro-Russian armed activist in Slaviansk told Reuters.

"We want to create a people's republic, a real one, one in Donetsk, one in Luhansk, and in general let the people of the southeast determine what they want. We want to hold a referendum."

A police building in the town of Krasni Liman also had been taken by protesters, according to Stativko, the spokeswoman for Ukraine's acting interior minister, although the CNN team saw no evidence to that effect. Special units are being sent to both Slaviansk and Krasni Liman to assess the situation, she said.

Donetsk chief of regional police resigns

The latest reports come amid heightened tensions in the country's largely Russian-speaking eastern region, centered on the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv. Pro-Russian protesters in those cities seized government buildings several days ago and remain barricaded in some.

In Donetsk, the chief of regional police has resigned.

Kostyantyn Pozhydaev announced his resignation during a pro-Russia activist rally outside the police office, the Donetsk regional police press office said in a statement Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, the acting Ukrainian President's website stated that the Head of the Security Service for the Donetsk region, Valery Ivanov, was sacked.

A demonstration was held in front of the Donetsk police headquarters Saturday, according to the interior ministry.

Although life in most of the city continues as normal, protesters still hold government buildings. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk paid a visit to Donetsk on Friday as he seeks to rally those in the region -- which has strong ties to Russia -- behind the interim government in Kiev ahead of elections due on May 25.

He suggested that constitutional reform could give more power to the regions, though the time frame is short.

"We almost don't have time to amend the constitution before the presidential election," he said, adding that they need to move fast so that any new president doesn't dictate terms.

The United States has accused Russia of fomenting the separatist unrest in its neighbor as a pretext for military intervention.

White House expresses concern, Kerry speaks to Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Saturday, expressing "strong concern that attacks today by armed militants in eastern Ukraine were orchestrated and synchronized, similar to previous attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea," a senior State Department official said.

The two diplomats had met late last month in Paris to discuss the crisis.

The official said that Kerry warned Lavrov there would be "additional consequences" if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from its border with Ukraine.

The official also noted that militants involved in Saturday's unrest in eastern Ukraine "were equipped with specialized Russian weapons and the same uniforms as those worn by the Russian forces that invaded Crimea."

The White House also reacted Saturday, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government to "cease all efforts to destabilize Ukraine."

"We are very concerned by the concerted campaign we see underway in eastern Ukraine today by pro-Russian separatists, apparently with support from Russia, who are inciting violence and sabotage and seeking to undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian state," said National Security Council spokeswoman Laura Lucas Magnuson, in a statement.

"We saw similar so-called protest activities in Crimea before Russia's purported annexation."

Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Kiev on April 22, to meet government leaders and members of the civil society.

"The Vice President will underscore the United States' strong support for a united, democratic Ukraine that makes its own choices about its future path," the White House said in a statement.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, in a tweet, described the situation as "worrisome. "Russia again seems to be behind" the unrest, Psaki said Saturday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury on Friday imposed a third round of sanctions on individuals considered to be involved in Crimea's annexation.

They include six individuals classed by the Treasury as Crimean separatists, former Ukrainian official Sergey Tsekov, and the Crimea-based natural gas company Chernomorneftegaz, which the Treasury says has appropriated assets belonging to Crimea's state-run gas company.

"Crimea is occupied territory. We will continue to impose costs on those involved in ongoing violations of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Treasury official David S. Cohen.

Diplomatic steps

Next Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will meet in Switzerland with foreign ministers from the United States, Russia and Ukraine to discuss efforts to de-escalate the situation.

That meeting will follow talks between EU foreign ministers on Monday in Luxembourg. EU defense ministers are also due to meet Tuesday, with the situation in Ukraine high on the agenda.

Western powers say they want to resolve the crisis through diplomatic and political means, and have warned of tougher sanctions against Russia if it intervenes further in Ukraine.

Ukraine acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, spoke Saturday by phone to discuss preparations for Thursday's meeting, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.

In the call, Deshchytsia demanded that Russian special services agents end their "provocative actions" in eastern Ukraine, which are intended to derail the Geneva meeting and impede efforts to resolve the crisis, the ministry said.

Lavrov said Friday in a televised interview on Russian state television that there are no Russian troops or Russian secret services agents in southeastern Ukraine, the official ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

He also said Russia has no intention of absorbing the southeastern regions of Ukraine, contrary to the fears of the West.

Russia annexed Ukraine's southeastern Crimea region last month, following a referendum condemned as illegal by Kiev and the international community, and the West fears it may next seek to enter eastern Ukraine.

CNN's Tim Lister reported from Donetsk and Victoria Butenko from Kiev, Nick Paton Walsh reported from Kramatorsk, while Chandrika Narayan wrote in Atlanta. CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
updated 7:34 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
"There were many scenes that defied logic," writes OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, who was one of the first international observers to arrive at the site.
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
updated 8:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
It's been building for months. And now, according to some, Russia has launched a "full-scale invasion" of Ukraine.
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
updated 9:51 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
updated 8:34 AM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
Western leaders stepped up sanctions, but the Russian President shows no sign of backing down.
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 4:37 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Information about Ukraine, the second-largest European country in area after Russia.
Learn more about the victims, ongoing investigation and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
updated 5:25 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.
ADVERTISEMENT