Kyiv told protesters in Luhansk authorities will use force to end the standoff. Officials in Kyiv said the standoff could end peacefully if the protesters choose that route.
“A resolution to this crisis will be found within the next 48 hours,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told reporters in the capital Kiev.
“For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities,” he said.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s security service SBU claimed armed pro-Russians held 60 hostages and rigged the SBU building with explosives. The protesters and Tetyana Pogukai, regional police spokeswoman, said there were no hostages. She did say the protesters found 200-300 Kalashnikov automatic rifles and tried to hold negotiations overnight. On Wednesday morning, Pogukai said nothing was accomplished.
“They won’t put down their weapons until there is agreement on a referendum,” she said.
Pro-Russians inside the building want a referendum similar to Crimea’s referendum on March 16. The Black Sea peninsula voted to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin officially annexed Crimea on March 21.
“Of course we must ask Russia to take us in because I don’t see an alternative,” said a man dressed in camouflage who gave his name as Vasiliy and said he was the commandant of the building. “Putin help us!” he said.
SBU said over 50 people left the building during the night and the pro-Russians confirmed it.
Authorities managed to gain control of government buildings in Kharkiv, but pro-Russians in Donetsk are still protesting. On Monday morning, the protesters declared the region the Donetsk People’s Republic. A member of Parliament in the Party of Regions, which is the same party ousted Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych was a member of, supports these protesters.
“The situation is so tense and complex that one stray word might cause a flare-up,” said Oleksandr Yefremov. “To prevent people suffering … we are proposing a draft law on an amnesty.”