Russian rioters have seized a number of buildings in eastern Ukraine, throwing rocks and combating riot police as they call for further Russian intervention in the region, according to several reports.
As reported yesterday, pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine have begun capturing government buildings and raising Russian flags in them, and some are planning referenda to leave the country. Fox News reports that “dozens of people armed with sticks and rocks broke through police lines during a pro-Russian rally” in Donetsk, a city with a sizable Russian minority that many are suggesting might be the second breakaway region after Crimea. A referendum is planned for May 11 in Donetsk to join Russia the same way Crimea did.
In the nearby city of Luhansk, Russian rioters “pelted the [security services] building with eggs, and then stones, a smoke grenade and finally a firebomb,” Fox News reports. Reuters adds that the images surfacing from both Donetsk and Luhansk are violent: riot police being carried away in stretchers appeared on latter local news; protesters blaring “Soviet-era music” from the tops of seized buildings in the former. The city of Kharkiv also experienced protests, though no incidents as violent or outrageous as those chronicled in Donetsk and Luhansk. Al Jazeera notes that an AFP reporter said he witnessed a “humiliation ritual” in which a group of individuals believed to be “ultra-right nationalists” were forced to walk down a steep hill on their knees by the pro-Russia rioters, allegedly as a way to express their political power over them.
Raw footage uploaded to YouTube by witnesses shows violent confrontations between Ukrainian riot police and angry protesters. The video below was published by the Daily Mail and shows riot police fighting back a large group of violent protesters.
The Ukrainian government has blamed the Putin administration for much of the violence. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov declared that Putin was responsible for “ordering and paying for another wave of separatist turmoil in the country’s east” on his Facebook account, noting that the protesters were “not very many but very aggressive.”
While the Obama administration continues to attempt negotiations with Russia, many suggest that a peaceful agreement that would halt Russia’s march west is nearly impossible. In an interview with NBC this week, former President George W. Bush said he believed that Putin “views the U.S. as an enemy” and international politics as a zero-sum game, making compromise difficult if not impossible. Meanwhile, talk of sanctions continues in the Obama administration despite no assurances that the last round of such sanctions deterred Russia from intervening in Ukraine.