Pro-Kremlin rebels in military fatigues have stormed a regional police building and the town hall in the eastern Ukrainian town of Horlivka, local officials said as the separatists tightened their grip on the country’s east.
Igor Demin, Horlivka’s police chief, told AFP news agency on Wednesday the rebels had taken control of the police headquarters in the town, which they declared part of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk”.
The municipality said in a statement that the rebels now in charge of the town hall were “not hindering” the council’s work and Yevgen Klep, the mayor, had met them.
The seizures extended the grip of pro-Russian armed rebels on the town, who took over another police station on April 14.
Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine’s acting president until an election on May 25, reiterated on Wednesday that police were incapable of reasserting control in the region.
“Our main task is to prevent the terrorist threat from spreading to other regions of Ukraine,” he told a meeting of
regional governors in Kiev.
“The Russian leadership is doing everything to prevent the election. But the election will take place on May 25,” he said.
Turchynov said the Ukrainian army was on full combat alert as “the threat of Russia starting a war against mainland Ukraine is real”.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said the that Russia was “in recession” on Wednesday.
Antonio Spilimbergo, the fund’s mission chief to Moscow, said on Wednesday that international sanctions imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, and the threat of more to come, were also hurting the economy and threatened investment.