The ultimatum of the head of Ukraine's Interior Ministry to pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine expired at noon, Moscow time. On Wednesday, Minister Avakov promised to resolve the situation in Luhansk, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions within 48 hours: either through negotiations or by force.
Army troops and military equipment have been sent to the region. The protesters do not refuse from their demands, though. Like before, they want to hold a referendum on federalization. In Luhansk, the number of defenders of the previously captured regional security service has increased. There are about 1,500 people in front of the building. The protesters also blocked the base of Interior Ministry troops, Russia 24 TV channel reports.
In Donetsk, the protesters are expecting a possible storm as well. The pro-Russian activists control the regional administration. There are barricades around the building; the surrounding streets have been blocked with barbed wire. The Donetsk protesters announced the creation of their own army. Several groups of miners from different parts of the region - about 200 people - came to support the protesters. According to protesters, soldiers of the National Guard of Ukraine and Right Sector radicals have been staying in Donetsk for several days.
Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk is expected to arrive in Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk. He will hold meetings to discuss the situation in the region, the decentralization of power and the new Constitution of Ukraine, the website of the Ukrainian government says.
It is quite possible that pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine can be ousted from the buildings they captured by force. The ultimatum has already expired, but no force has been used yet.
Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, who arrived in Donetsk, currently holds a meeting with representatives of the eastern regions of Ukraine. Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema, other members of the government are joining him for the talks.
Yatsenyuk stressed out once again that the government of the country and central authorities were willing to listen to the opinions of both the regions and every citizen of the country. According to him, one should amend the Constitution of the country to eliminate regional state administrations as a rudiment and hand over the powers to govern territories at the local level. The prime minister said that Ukraine was facing serious challenges, and one could handle them only if all were united.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Ukrainian authorities of repression.
"Parliamentarians have not invented anything else but to launch the deterrent mechanism for the population - the threat of repression against all those who disagree with the current usurpers of power in Kiev," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
On April 8, the Rada toughened penalties for infringement of the territorial integrity and treason. Attempts to violate the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine entail a prison sentence of three to ten years.
The leaders of Ukrainian special unit "Alpha" have refused to obey orders to storm metropolitan government office buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, local media report.
"We will work exclusively within the law. Our units have been created to release hostages and fight against terrorism," one of the leaders of the unit said.
According to media reports, officers announced their decision not to storm the buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk at a meeting of law-enforcement officials. The decision thus comes contrary to requirements from First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema and Acting Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Andrei Parubiya.