Ukraine crisis: deadline to withdraw from eastern cities passes – live

Ukrainian acting president Oleksander Turchinov has given pro-Russian separatists in the eastern city of Slaviansk a deadline of 0600 GMT to lay down their weapons, with a threat of a dawn attack if the deadline is not met

The BBC have a good round up of what is happening where in Eastern Ukraine, with round-ups from each of the cities where protests have broken out including: Sloviansk, Yenakiyevo, Horlivka, Artemivsk, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Zaporizha, Donetsk, Makiyivka, Druzhkivka

The BBC’s Kevin Bishop has just posted this youtube video.

Horlivka – The man in fatigues introduces himself as a lieutenant colonel of the Russian army via @OS1954

Peter Leonard of the Associated Press is reporting from Horlivka, where the police building has been seized by pro-Russian militia.

He adds detail to an earlier from the city.

Oleksandr Sapunov, one of the men who took part in storming the police building in Horlivka, said the insurgents were fighting against appointees of the Kiev government, including the local police chief, and wanted to appoint a leadership of their own.

"The people came to tell him that he is a puppet of the Kiev junta and they won’t accept him," Sapunov said.

Ever since pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in late February, Russia has demanded constitutional reforms that would turn Ukraine into a loose federal state.

After refusing demands for a referendum by separatists in the east, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov indicated Monday that holding a nation-wide referendum on the nation’s status was a possibility and that such a vote could be conducted on May 25, along with presidential elections. Turchynov expressed confidence that Ukrainians would vote against turning the country into a federation and against its break-up.

It appears that politicians are not the only ones passing comment on developments in Ukraine. According to AFP, a weatherman on Russian state television wove comments on Ukraine’s political crisis into his weather forecast, warning of a "wind of change" in the country’s east. The agency reports:

The bow-tied weatherman on Russia 24 rolling news channel, Vadim Zavodchenkov, broke with routine by comparing the weather fronts rolling across eastern Ukraine to the wave of clashes between pro-Russian forces and Kiev authorities.

"Clouds have gathered over Ukraine’s east and the consequences of this will be felt even in Russia," Zavodchenkov said.

The British coalition government are united behind British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s remarks this morning. According to the Press Association, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said events in eastern Ukraine had "all the hallmarks of an attempt to destabilise the situation".

He added: "We are clear as a Government that Russian destabilisation of the Ukraine must stop."

Reuters are reporting that the Russian Foreign Ministry is calling for the Russian-speaking eastern regions should be involved in drafting a possible new state structure which could be put to a referendum next month.

Reuters reports:

Sergei Lavrov said it was not in Russia’s interests for Ukraine to break up, but that Moscow wanted Kiev to give all citizens equal treatment.

He denied Ukrainian and U.S. allegations that Russia had undercover agents fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, and said he was seeking an explanation of media reports that the director of the CIA, John Brennan, had visited Kiev.

Developments in the Ukraine had "the appearance of a further gross, deliberate and pre-meditated violation of the independent sovereignty of Ukraine", said Hague. Russia’s denial of involvement in East Ukraine did not have "a shred of credibility."

Hague called for a strong, immediate and united international response, and said he would be pushing for sanctions against Russia and that the "timing and nature" of the sanctions would be discussed at the meeting, adding that there "had to be consequences to a further and further escalation of this crisis by Russia."

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has accused Russia of a "gross, deliberate and premeditated" destabilisation of Ukraine, ahead of a meeting with EU foreign ministers.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague accuses Russia of "deliberate destabilisation of #Ukraine"

I have just been speaking to our correspondent Luke Harding in Slavyansk, where pro-Russian activists are reinforcing the barricades outside the two occupied state buildings – the police headquarters and the offices of the state security service.

Luke describes an uneasy and tense situation in the town, but little obvious conflict as yet.

It is relatively quiet in Slavyansk, but the mood is tense. Local people here are worried that Ukrainian troops will, as promised, storm the city.

But at the moment there are no signs of the Ukrainian army. There was a military helicopter in the skies for the last two days, but there are no signs of tanks or troops on the ground.

Reports from Alec Luhn that pro-Russian protesters have become violent in Horlivka

Commander finally speaks up, telling protestors who have stormed Gorlovka police HQ to go onto street. "Turn in your weapons!" they shout

People beating each other as protestors in Gorlovka enter basement where police where holed up

Cop who was beaten by protestors in Gorlovka now in an ambulance. Some calling for his head, others say let him go

Here is the Associated Press’ take on the seizing of police and government buildings in Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine, in defiance of Ukrainian government warnings.

Dozens of angry men hurled rocks, smashed the windows and broke into a police station in the city of Horlivka not far from the border with Russia, while hundreds of onlookers cheered them on. Thick white smoke rose from the entrance to the building.

The events in Horlivka were the latest sign of trouble in Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, in which pro-Russian gunmen have seized a number of government buildings demanding more autonomy from the central government and closer ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, a deadline set by the Ukrainian government for pro-Russian gunmen to leave government buildings in eastern Ukraine and surrender weapons passed early Monday, with no immediate sign of any action to force the insurgents out.

Turchynov had issued a decree Sunday that those protesters who disarm and vacate government offices in several cities in the Russian-leaning east of the country by 0600 GMT Monday will not be prosecuted. Turchynov vowed that a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" would take place to re-establish control over those areas and that the fate of the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia last month, will not be repeated.

Russia has warned the Kiev government against using force against the protesters in the east and has threatened to cancel in international diplomatic conference on the Ukrainian conflict scheduled for later this week.

The BBC’s Kevin Bishop brings our attention to this live stream of police HQ in Horlivka being taken over:

Ukraine – Live pix of police HQ in Horlivka being taken over

Meanwhile the Guardian’s Luke Harding is in Slavyansk, where pro-Russian activists are reinforcing the barricades outside the two occupied state buildings – the police headquarters and the offices of the state security service.

Yesterday security forces launched a security operation against the protesters in the city and clashes left at least three people dead.

Few roadblocks on the road into #Slavyansk. A few weapons. But calm, with traffic flowing in both directions

Lots of armed guys outside #Slavayansk city hall. They say they are "Cossacks" who have come to help. Carrying standard issue Kalashnikovs

Further developments in Horlivka, according to these tweets from Alec Luhn, reporting from the city for the Guardian.

Riot police pull back in Horlivka, anti-Kiev protestors cordon them off

Anti-Kiev protestors clapped as riot police withdrew in Horlivka. Now they’re breaking into a side door of city hall

Protestors are inside police HQ in Gorlovka. "Come out!" they tell employees, banging at glass. "We won’t touch you. Give us your leader!"

This updated report from David Hughes, political correspondent at the Press Association

David Cameron interrupted his Easter holiday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine in a sign of the growing concern about the actions of pro-Russian forces in the country.

The Prime Minister, who is in Lanzarote with his family, spoke to William Hague by telephone ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

Reuters are reporting that Ukraine’s interim president has said the Kiev leadership was "not against" a referendum being held on the type of state Ukraine should be. He added he was sure it would confirm the wish of the majority for a united, independent country.

The holding of a referendum has been one of the demands of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Oleksander Turchinov, in televised remarks to a parliamentary committee, added that such a poll could be held at the same time as a presidential election on May 25.

The riot police appear to be unable to stop protesters in Horlivka, sayd Alex Luhn

Riot police finally show up in Horlivka in E Ukraine. But they don’t stop protestors, who chant "Police with the people!"

Sounds like the situation is escalating in Horlivka, the last major city in Donetsk region not in pro-Russian hands.

Pro-Russian protestors are STORMING CITY HALL in Horlivka. Explosions. Last major city of Donetsk region falling

"LET’S GO!" yell pro-Russian protestors as they storm city hall in Horlivka in Eastern Ukraine. Explosions sound

In Slaviansk, Kramatorsk, professionals stormed buildings. In Horlivka now it’s spontaneous uprising-see for yourself

Horlivka city hall is ON FIRE after protestors apparently throw Molotov cocktail. "Good job!" people chant

Small explosion goes off at pro-Russ protest in Horlovka, last unoccupied major city in Donetsk. Feed via @maxseddon

Alec Luhn also tells us there are reports of pro-Russian stone-throwing in Horlivka – the last major city in Donetsk region not in pro-Russian hands.

Russia’s best-selling newspaper announces "CIVIL WAR HAS BEGUN IN UKRAINE" via @lauraphylmills @NatVasilyevaAP

My colleague Alec Luhn in Donetsk has just filed this dispatch, on the passing of this morning’s deadline:

An ultimatum by Ukraine’s acting president for pro-Russian protestors in the east of the country to lay down their arms came and went quietly on Monday.

Also on Monday, security and defence council head Andriy Parubiy said Ukrainian intelligence services had detained Russian secret agents in Ukraine but did not provide further details.

There has been no immediate comment from the Ukraine government on the deadline passing, but Serhiy Taruta, governor of the Donetsk region where government buildings have been seized by pro-Russian gunmen, has said an anti-terrorist operation is under way, according to the Interfax news agency.

This from the Press Association:

Taruta did not give any details of what the anti-terrorist operation would entail. The governor usually does not have authority to launch anti-terrorist measures on his own and he was likely acting on the orders of top security officials in Kiev.

Taruta said the anti-terrorism measures were aimed at "protecting the peace and order on our land, which today is being taken away from us by armed, aggressive fanatics cynically and cold-bloodedly". He added: "They are terrorists and we will not let them rule on our land." He did not provide any details of the operation.

.@StateDept with another rebuttal of #Russian authorities claims. April 17 meet seems meaningless with current gaps.

The US-based, Russia-born analyst Natasha Mozgovaya draws our attention to the US state department’s rebuttal of Russian authorities’ claims:

No amount of propaganda can make right something that the world knows is wrong.

President Obama, March 26

1. Russia claims: Russian agents are not active in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has arrested more than a dozen suspected Russian intelligence agents in recent weeks, many of whom were armed at the time of arrest.

The prime minister has urged the EU to give a "firm and united" response to the Ukraine crisis.

This from David Hughes and Dominic Harris of the Press Association:

The UK will call for a "firm and united" response from European Union countries in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Pro-Russian forces showed little sign of complying with a deadline set by the administration in Kiev to withdraw from occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

Satellite images show between 35,000 and 40,000 Russian troops in the vicinity of the border with Ukraine, along with combat aircraft, tanks and artillery, in addition to the 25,000 Russian troops already illegally in Crimea, he said.

While the Kremlin denied it was behind the attacks in eastern Ukraine, Lyall Grant said the events "point clearly to Russia once again interfering directly in the internal affairs of Ukraine using manufactured pretexts and military force", calling recent events in eastern cities "a well-orchestrated campaign designed to destabilise the country".

In an updated report, Reuters say that the Russian flag is still flying over the police headquarters in Slaviansk. The report says that masked men are guarding the building and more equipment has been delivered to enforce the barricade.

Overnight the US department of state issued a briefing that describes the 12 April building seizures across eastern Ukraine as a "co-ordinated and professional operation" by pro-Russian militias that were likely "planned in advance".

In an indication that the April 12 operations were planned in advance, the takeovers have occurred simultaneously in multiple locations in eastern Ukraine: Donetsk, Slavyansk, Krasnyi Liman, Kramatorsk, Chervonoarmiysk, and Druzhkovka. There are reports that additional attempts to seize buildings in other eastern Ukrainian towns failed. Inconsistent with political, grassroots protests, these seizures bear the same defining features and tactics across diverse locations, including takeover of government administration buildings and security headquarters, seizure of weapons in the targeted buildings, forced removal of local officials, rapid establishment of roadblocks and barricades, attacks against communications towers, and deployment of well-organized forces. In Slavyansk, armed units have now also moved beyond the seized buildings to establish roadblocks and checkpoints in the nearby area.

The deadline has now passed and Reuters report that there are no signs of separatist rebels in Slaviansk complying with the order to lay down arms.

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