How Will Ukraine React To Pro-Russian Protests?

Pro-Russian protesters have taken over buildings in eastern Ukraine, and the government's interior minister says Russian aggression is to blame.

How Will Ukraine React To Pro-Russian Protests?
Kyiv Post / Kostyantyn Chernichkin

It's been a chaotic day for Ukraine. The country's new government is weighing how to react to pro-Russian protesters in the east of the country, who've stormed more government buildings and demanded Russian annexation.

The police chief of Donetsk resigned Saturday after pro-Russian protesters marched on the police station. Demonstrators have occupied several government buildings in Donetsk for almost a week, with the stated goal of independence from Kiev. (Via BBC)

Also Saturday, armed demonstrators took over a police station in the city of Slaviansk. Ukrainian police reported the militants seized the station's guns and began distributing them to pro-Russian protesters. (Via YouTube / Elina Sharasova)

Ukraine's acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov condemned the incidents as evidence of "a sign of external aggression from the Russian Federation." Ukraine's acting president called an emergency meeting of the country's security council in response to Saturday's takeovers.

But Ukraine's government is likely to tread lightly when dealing with the protesters: Russian president Vladimir Putin has threatened military intervention in order to protect the country's Russian-speaking population.

And with 40,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border — according to NATO estimates, at least — Ukraine would do well to avoid using force on pro-Russian demonstrators, which might become a pretext for a Russian invasion. (Via CNN)

Kiev has explored a more diplomatic resolution to the tension in eastern Ukraine. The country's prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk visited the region Friday and promised to hold talks to end the stand-off. (Via  Euronews)

Yatsenyuk also hinted some regions might get more autonomy in the country's new government — which, The New York Times reports, is something Moscow has been pushing for.

And pro-Russian protests aren't the only source of tension between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine's state gas agency has halted payments to Russian gas giant Gazprom over recent price hikes.