Insurgents wielding automatic weapons took control and hoisted a separatist flag on top of the city council building Wednesday morning in the city of Horlivka in the Donetsk region which borders Russia. They also took control of a police station in the city, adding to another police building which they had controlled for several weeks.
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An Associated Press reporter saw a small group of men standing guard outside the building and checking the documents of those entering. One of the men said that foreign reporters will not be allowed in and threatened to arrest those don't obey orders. Similar guards were also seen outside the police station in the city.
The insurgents now control buildings in about a dozen cities in eastern Ukraine, demanding broader regional rights as well as greater ties or outright annexation by Russia. The militiamen are holding some activists and journalists hostage, including a group of observers from a European security organization.
Eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population, was the heartland of support for Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president who fled to Russia in February. The government that replaced him in Kiev has resisted the insurgents' demands, fearing they could lead to a breakup of the country or mean that more regions could join Russia, as Crimea did.
Kiev and Western governments accuse Moscow of orchestrating the protests in eastern Ukraine. The United States and the European Union rolled out a fresh set of economic sanctions against Russia this week, but Moscow has remained unbowed, denying its role in the unrest and saying the actions were Kiev's fault.