Anti-Maidan activists have recaptured the administrative headquarters of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. It comes just hours after police freed the building which has been under siege for days. Protesters also flew a Russian flag from the premises.
Waving Russian flags and chanting pro-Russian slogans, hundreds of protesters managed to break though police cordons and throw open the front doors of the regional government building.
According to an ITAR-TASS correspondent at the scene, protesters have taken over the session hall and the governor's office on the 11th floor, hoisting a Russian flag.
Internal armed forces were ordered not to interfere.
More than 2,000 people remain in the square outside, according to media estimates.
Донецк pic.twitter.com/UM9M1dTjuW— Новости Донбасса (@novostidnua) March 5, 2014
Earlier on Wednesday, police evacuated the building after receiving reports that it was booby-trapped with explosives. After law enforcement searched the premises with police dogs, they found an anti-personnel mine, which was later defused at an artillery range.
The regional government headquarters was seized by protesters on Monday as they burst inside chanting "Putin come.” The building remained occupied until Wednesday morning.
A wave of pro-Russian protests has gripped Donetsk, the home city of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich, since Ukraine’s parliament voted to repeal the country's language law. Protesters are demanding control over the regional police force and to end ties with Kiev.
Demonstrators flew a Russian flag on top of the administration building on Saturday. It was briefly replaced with the Ukrainian flag on Wednesday, as police removed the crowd from the area.
Protests continue to take place in several eastern Ukrainian cities, including the city of Kharkov, where nearly 5,000 people gathered outside a local administration building on Wednesday demanding a referendum. The rally began earlier in the day, with roughly 1,000 activists protesting near the Lenin monument. They then marched to the city’s administration building, chanting pro-Russian slogans such as “Russia, help!” and “Russia, protect us,” as well as “Kharkov – Russian city.” No violence was reported. Local armed forces have been reported to be heading towards the local government building, which has so far been secured by 500 riot police officers.