|Activists in Donetsk proclaim independence from Ukraine||
Protesters occupying a government building in eastern Ukraine declared the creation of a separatist republic on Monday, in a move Kiev described as part of a plan to justify a Russian invasion to dismember the country.
According to Reuters, pro-Russian protesters seized official buildings in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk on Sunday night, demanding that referendums be held on whether to join Russia like the one that preceded Moscow's takeover of Crimea.
Police said they cleared the protesters from the building in Kharkiv, but in Luhansk the demonstrators had seized weapons.
In Donetsk, home base of deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, about 120 pro-Moscow activists calling themselves the "Republican People's Soviet of Donetsk" seized the chamber of the regional parliament.
A session of the people's Council of Donbass (Donetsk region) took place in the main hall of the Regional Council and unanimously voted on a declaration to form a new independent state: the People’s Republic of Donetsk, RT reported.
The Council proclaimed itself the only legitimate body in the region until the regions in southeast Ukraine conduct a general referendum, set to take place no later than May 11.
“The Donetsk Republic is to be created within the administrative borders of the Donetsk region. This decision will come into effect after the referendum,” the statement said.
An unidentified bearded man read out "the act of the proclamation of an independent state, Donetsk People's Republic" in front of a Russian flag.
"In the event of aggressive action from the illegitimate Kiev authorities, we will appeal to the Russian Federation to bring in a peacekeeping contingent," said the proclamation.
The activists later read out the text by loud hailer to a cheering crowd of about 1,000 people outside the building.
Kiev said the seizures of state buildings in three cities in eastern Ukraine's mainly Russian speaking industrial heartland were a replay of events in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which was annexed by Moscow last month.
"An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation ... under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told a cabinet meeting in Kiev. "We will not allow this."
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on March 1, a week after Yanukovych was overthrown, that Moscow has the right to take military action in Ukraine to protect Russian speakers, creating the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
Yanukovych, in exile in Russia, has called for referendums across Ukrainian regions on their status within the country.
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