Pro-Russian Forces Seize TV Station in Donetsk, Ukraine

Pro-Russian Forces Seize TV Station in Donetsk, Ukraine

Pro-Russian forces captured a television station in Donetsk and said programming will be changed to Russian TV. A Reuters reporter witnessed the seizure.

A Reuters reporter said four separatists in masks, with truncheons and shields, were standing at the entrance to the building controlling access, while more separatists in camouflage fatigues could be seen inside.

About 15 police officers were standing a short distance away but were not trying to resist the separatists.

It was the first time the station had been seized by the separatists, though previously a transmission tower in the Donetsk region had briefly been seized and technicians forced to broadcast Russian stations’ output.

The seizure occurred after a rally where pro-Russians demanded a referendum. One of the leaders claimed the people did not receive enough air time and their voices needed to be heard. According to The Kyiv Post, 500 protesters marched towards the station and vandalized buildings along the way.

Reporters on the scene said the building was protected by at least 30 Ukrainian officers, but they did not stop the men from entering the building.

The pro-Russian forces sent the station director, Oleg Dzholos, outside and he said the forces forced him to change programming.

“They used force to push back the gates,” he said. “There were no threats. There were not many of my people. What can a few people do? The leaders of this movement just gave me an ultimatum that one of the Russian channels has to be broadcast.”

Dzholos said three of his staff were still inside the building, and that the separatists had not ejected him from his office.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and Espresso.TV said the forces were pushed out of the building, but it is not true. Bojan Pancevski, journalist with The Sunday Times, confirmed the forces are still in control of the building.