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Ukraine launches massive crackdown on east Russian separatists

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Ukrainian security forces have launched a crackdown on separatist protesters in the eastern town of Slavyansk, where pro-Russian protesters have seized government buildings.

“An anti-terrorist operation has begun in Slavyansk. It is being directed by the anti-terrorist center of the state security service. Forces from all the security units of the country have been brought in,” Ukraine’s Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page on Sunday.

There are reports of gunfire in the city and military helicopters flying over the seized police headquarters.

Following Avakov’s announcement, nearly a dozen women, who had been in the building when it was seized, were evacuated.

Earlier on Saturday, the interior and defense ministries announced their plans to launch operational responses to separatist sentiments in the eastern parts of the country after the seizure of government buildings by the pro-Russian protesters in Slavyansk in southern Donetsk.

Following the secession of Crimea from Ukraine in March, the secessionist movement soon spread to other regions including Odessa, Lugansk, Nikolayev, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Druzhkovka, which are all located in Donetsk Province.

Protesters in these areas have taken control of government buildings and raised the Russian flag on the buildings.

Reports say fighting has erupted in several towns in eastern Ukraine. Protesters demand a referendum on breaking away from Ukraine and integrating into Russia, but Ukrainian officials say their demands are unacceptable.


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