The mayor of Sloviansk Nelya Shtepa has said that the town administration building was seized on Saturday by activists and militia volunteers, who removed the Ukrainian flag from the building and replaced it with a Russian one.
More than 1,000 people are inside the town administration building, the mayor said, according to the local portal slavgorod.com.ua. "I asked them who they were, they said they are Donetsk militia volunteers. I know many, they are our people, and they demand a referendum. We all agree, I cannot contradict them," Shtepa said, according to the website.
"Three days ago I wrote to the Ukrainian Prime Minister notifying him that we should sit down at the table of negotiations. Today the whole of Sloviansk has taken to the streets in support of the activists. The Ukrainian flag has now been removed from the town administration building and replaced with a Russian one," the Sloviansk mayor said.
"We shall hold a referendum, what is happening here says that the Ukrainian authorities should think carefully. I am certain that tomorrow they will announce a decision to hold a referendum in Ukrainian regions. Although, I wonder why they did not ask the people earlier what it wants," Shtepa said, according to slavgorod.com.ua.
Ninety-two percent of local businesses work with Russia, "and partnership with this country is important for us …, the Kiev authorities must heed that the people want dialogue, stability, peace and order," she said.
"The whole town has stood up as a shield to protect the guys who seized the building. And if the Ukrainian authorities try to suppress the uprising, an enormous number of civilians will be killed. We must not let this happen," said the town mayor.
The people who seized the town administration building referred to themselves as the supporters of the regional "volunteers militia" and "people's governor" Pavlo Hubarev, Shtepa said.
Meanwhile, people are putting up barricades of tires, wooden shields and sandbags around the Sloviansk town police building, according to the local website slavgorod.com.ua.
The deputy police chiefs have emerged from the building, the portal said, citing its sources. "There is no exact information about the fate of acting chief Oleksandr Davydenko. We only know that he was driven away and held by unknown people," according to slavgorod.com.ua.
"At least three law enforcers who were inside the police building at the time of its storming are currently in hospital," the website said.
Earlier Ukraine's First Deputy Interior Minister Volodymyr Yevdokimov told reporters in Kiev that the Sloviansk "police chief is conducting a negotiating process."
The riot policemen were ordered to go to Sloviansk to storm the police building, but the riot police officers refused to comply with the order and returned to their permanent base in Donetsk, a Rossiya 24 correspondent reported.
He dismissed earlier reports that pro-Ukrainian federalization supporters stopped riot police buses as they were leaving Donetsk for Sloviansk. "One cannot say there was some conflict between the police and activists there. Effectively, the activists simply escorted the riot policemen back to their base," the correspondent said.
Meanwhile, the Donetsk-based website OstroV said that armed people in camouflage have emerged on entrance to Sloviansk. "They set up a roadblock and reinforced it with tires. Currently, they are preventing a police bus from getting into the town," the report said.
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