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Ukraine Sets Deadline for Separatists

‘Anti-Terrorist’ Action Vowed After Security Officer Killed

  • Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs  during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)

    Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)

  • Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs  during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)

    Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)

  • A pro-Russian gunman stands guard at a seized police station in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Pro-Moscow protesters have seized a number of government buildings in the east over the past week, undermining the authority of the interim government in the capital, Kiev. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

    A pro-Russian gunman stands guard at a seized police station in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Pro-Moscow protesters have seized a number of government buildings in the east over the past week, undermining the authority of the interim government in the capital, Kiev. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

  • Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs  during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)
  • Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs  during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)
  • A pro-Russian gunman stands guard at a seized police station in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Pro-Moscow protesters have seized a number of government buildings in the east over the past week, undermining the authority of the interim government in the capital, Kiev. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Moscow — The conflict between pro-Russian gunmen and Ukraine’s authorities turned bloody on Sunday, with one security service officer killed and reports of people wounded on both sides, as the struggle for the country’s east escalated one week after separatists began systematically occupying government buildings.

Gunfire, the first reported between authorities and pro-Russian separatists in the east, erupted as Ukraine declared that it would deploy its armed forces in a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” against the burgeoning revolt in the Donetsk region.

“The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine,” President Oleksandr Turchynov said in an address to the nation Sunday evening. “The aggressor has not stopped and is continuing to sow disorder in the east of the country.”

The armed assaults on government buildings in the eastern region, close to the Russian border, have alarmed not only leaders in Kiev, who accuse Moscow of a coordinated campaign of aggression against Ukraine, but also those in the West. The attacks, officials said, were reminiscent of the shadowy invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, which resulted in its annexation by Russia last month.

“Well, it has all the telltale signs of what we saw in Crimea,” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos. “It’s professional, it’s coordinated, there’s nothing grass-roots-seeming about it.”

If the attacks continued, she warned, the United States would intensify its sanctions against Russia. As for the Kiev government, it lost Crimea without firing a shot and has vowed not to repeat the mistake in eastern Ukraine.

The West has been cautioning Ukraine against starting a shooting war with the separatists for fear that it would offer Russia, which has thousands of troops gathered across the border, a pretext for invasion. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, however, that he had no alternative but to begin an “anti-terrorist” campaign Sunday after days of urging the separatists to go home peacefully.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday night calling Ukraine’s actions “criminal” and adding that “it is now the West’s responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine.” The U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting Sunday night, at Russia’s request, to discuss the mounting crisis.

Turchynov gave the separatists a deadline of 9 a.m. local time today to vacate the buildings and leave under an amnesty. Last week, they were given a deadline of Friday to do the same. The offer was ignored.

On Sunday night, there was little evidence that Russian supporters had any inclination to retreat. Last Monday, they overran the Donetsk regional administration building and have held it ever since. On Saturday, they took the Donetsk regional police headquarters, while men in camouflage overwhelmed the police department in Slavyansk, a town 55 miles from the city of Donetsk. By Sunday, they had stormed other towns in the region.

Turchynov said that a captain in Ukraine’s security service was fatally shot Sunday in a fight outside Slavyansk and that two colonels were wounded. Four residents were wounded, according to other reports.

The annexation of Crimea has been wildly popular in Russia. Russian flags hang from many balconies in Moscow, and President Vladimir Putin’s ratings are higher than ever. Even so, there are objections in some quarters to the invasion and the Russian news media’s coverage, which has portrayed Ukraine’s Russian speakers as under threat and in need of protection. Moscow considers the Kiev government illegitimate, and the Russian news media routinely call it a “fascist junta” in the pay of the United States.

About 10,000 people in Moscow rallied Sunday to protest such coverage and a wider crackdown on independent media. Some carried Ukrainian flags. Others had posters in support of Ukrainians. They were far fewer than the tens of thousands who marched along the same route March 15 to demonstrate against Russian intervention in Ukraine.

Trouble roiled one town after another in eastern Ukraine over the weekend. Mariupol, a city of nearly 500,000 in the Donetsk region, was beset Sunday by several hundred separatists who occupied the city council and raised Russian and “Donetsk Republic” flags, recently introduced by separatists. Local news reports said the attackers called themselves “the people’s army of Donbass,” which refers to the region around Donetsk.

The city council in Makeyevka, about 16 miles east of Donetsk, also was seized, local reporters said, and about 1,000 demonstrators rallied outside wearing black-and-orange St. George ribbons, which represent the Soviet victory in World War II and have been adopted as an emblem of pro-Russian sentiment.

The police station, city council and prosecutor’s office in the small town of Yenakiev, 40 miles east of Donetsk, were seized Sunday, according to Ukrainian newspaper reports. Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who has been accused of helping Moscow stir up unrest, comes from the town.

Yanukovych fled to Russia in February after three months of protests against his government, set off by his refusal to sign an agreement for closer cooperation with the European Union. Instead, he wanted to pursue economic ties with Russia, an inclination more popular in the Russian-speaking east than in the rest of Ukraine.

In Kramatorsk, a city of 200,000 about 60 miles north of Donetsk, the police headquarters was captured Saturday night by heavily armed men who were shooting at the building and in the air. The city council building also was reported to be in separatist control.

Police and residents of the small town of Krasniy Liman reportedly fought off an attempt by separatists to seize offices there.

In the Kharkiv region north of Donetsk, 50 people were injured when separatists attacked a pro-Ukrainian rally with sticks and stun grenades, local police reported. No violence was reported in Luhansk, in the easternmost part of Ukraine.

The unrest has been accompanied by the presence of Russian troops along the border. NATO and U.S. officials estimate that 40,000 Russian troops are stationed there. Moscow has denied consistently that the troops pose a threat.

Turchynov’s announcement that the army would be used to tamp down the revolt comes amid reports of significant defections from the ranks of local police to the pro-Russian side. The army is also seen as a more appropriate force to use against a potential invasion.

The Ukrainian army, however, is poorly equipped, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday that it was time for the United States to do something about it.

“We ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves,” McCain said on CBS’s Face the Nation.