KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Authorities in Ukraine's capital are warning that they are prepared to use force to clear several government buildings that have been seized by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The country's interior minister says the standoff in Luhansk and two neighboring regions must be resolved within the next two days.
As he spoke, anti-government protesters in Luhansk raised high barricades along a thoroughfare in front of the security service building. Hundreds of supporters camped outside overnight and chanted the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All of the cities affected by the uprisings are in Ukraine's industrial Russian-speaking heartland in the east. It has a large population of ethnic Russians, and economic and cultural ties to Russia are strong.
In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where protesters are occupying another government building, a regional governor met with activists to try to find a solution to the crisis.
The Ukrainian government and the United States have accused Moscow of encouraging the unrest, as a pretext for a Russian military incursion like last month's takeover of Crimea. NATO says up to 40,000 Russian troops are gathered along the Ukrainian border.
Meanwhile, Russia is threatening to start charging Ukraine in advance for natural gas supplies. That's a move that could sharply hurt Ukraine, which is already on the verge of bankruptcy.
131-c-12-(Peter Leonard, AP correspondent)-"sort of developed"-AP correspondent Peter Leonard reports these areas where separatists have gathered have large populations of ethnic Russians, ties to Russia and a distrust of the government that took power in February. (9 Apr 2014)
<<CUT *131 (04/09/14)££ 00:12 "sort of developed"
129-c-18-(Peter Leonard, AP correspondent)-"been in Crimea"-AP correspondent Peter Leonard reports there are worries that what's happening in Luhansk is similar to what occurred in Crimea prior to its annexation by Russia. (9 Apr 2014)
<<CUT *129 (04/09/14)££ 00:18 "been in Crimea"
APPHOTO XEL107: Pro-Russian activists with Russian flag pass by the barricades at the regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the standoff in Donetsk and the two neighboring Russian-leaning regions of Luhansk and Kharkiv must be resolved within the next two days either through negotiations or through the use of force, the Interfax news agency reported. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) (9 Apr 2014)
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