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Ukraine's eastern hot spots

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ukraine's heavily Russified southeast has been the scene of a string of uprisings and attacks by pro-Russian armed groups since April 6.

The main unrest has focused around Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv, the regional centres of an economically depressed rust belt that stretches along the border with Russia.

DONETSK

In Donetsk, a city of one million inhabitants and the secessionist hotspot, demonstrators stormed the government building on April 6, and are still holed up there. On April 7 they proclaimed the "Donetsk People's Republic" and vowed to hold a referendum on joining Russia.

On Wednesday, pro-Russian gunmen entered the mayor's office in the city centre.

SLAVYANSK

In the run-down industrial town of Slavyansk (100 kilometres, 60 miles north of Donetsk), pro-Russian gunmen dressed in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas took over the police station and local security services building on Saturday.

On Tuesday, authorities in Kiev launched an "anti-terrorist" operation to oust the separatists, sending some 20 tanks towards the town of some 100,000.

On Wednesday, six armoured vehicles and light tanks displaying Russian flags appeared on the streets of Slavyansk and were greeted warmly by pro-Moscow locals.

KRAMATORSK

On Saturday, in neighbouring Kramatorsk (70 kilometres, 45 miles north of Donetsk), masked and uniformed gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs attacked the police and municipal headquarters.

On Tuesday, Kiev helicoptered in reinforcements to a key airbase on the outskirts of the town and tightened its controls over the installation.

On Wednesday, 14 Ukrainian armoured vehicles and tanks entered the centre of Kramatorsk after pro-Russian gunmen vacated the police station.

LUGANSK

In Lugansk, an industrial city of 400,000 people, armed pro-Russian militants forced their way into and occupied a building belonging to Ukraine's SBU security services on April 6. They demanded that separatist leaders arrested days earlier be released. They have dug in despite the rising risk of an assault to dislodge them.

On Wednesday, Kiev's defence ministry pledged a firm response after two Ukrainian servicemen were allegedly taken hostage by pro-Russian forces near Lugansk.

KHARKIV

In the main eastern city, which has 1.5 million inhabitants, clashes erupted on April 6 between more than 2,000 pro-Russian protesters who took over the offices of the regional governor and nationalists loyal to Kiev. A day later they were made to leave the building. Three days of riots followed. On Sunday, demonstrations unsuccessfully tried to enter the town administration headquarters.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140416/ukraines-eastern-hot-spots