The unelected Ukrainian leader Oleksander Turchinov warned pro-Russian eastern regions they would be stepping into the abyss if they voted for self-rule on Sunday in a referendum that has raised Western fears of a slide to full civil war.
Barricades of tires and scrap metal blocked streets in the port city of Mariupol and in Slaviansk, centers of an uprising that has unleashed the worst crisis between the West and Russia since the Cold War. There was a clash between army and rebels near Slaviansk late on Saturday, but fighting had largely abated.
For a vote on which so much hangs, the referendum in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which has declared itself a “People’s Republic”.
Kiev’s forces are using heavy weaponry and tanks in the eastern city of Mariupol to storm the local Interior Ministry building, where police have barricaded inside. After residents began flocking to the scene, Kiev fighters opened fire on civilians.
There are conflicting reports about the killed and injured. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said that about 20 anti-Kiev activists were killed and four more were taken captive, according to a statement posted on Interior Minister Arsen Avakov’s Facebook page.
One of the armored vehicles then opened fire at a group of unarmed civilians, according to a self-defense forces’ representative.
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Kiev’s National Guard used grenade launchers against police who earlier refused to shoot at unarmed civilians as the coup-appointed authorities ordered them to do, a representative of the local anti-fascist committee Pyotr Komissarov told RT.
“Earlier, the local police refused to shoot at civilians. [Kiev] called them traitors…Today, all police officers that didn’t ask for dismissal were attempted to be ‘executed, this is the side Obama supports.