SLOVIANSK, Ukraine, April 15 (UPI) -- Pro-Russian activists who are occupying government buildings in Sloviansk removed the Ukrainian coat of arms and flag from the front of city hall Tuesday.
This occurred the same day the Ukrainian government launched an "anti-terrorist operation" to remove the activists from the government buildings after they refused to surrender by the set deadline. Sloviansk sits about 60 miles from Donetsk where violence erupted between pro-Russian activists and security forces as the activists seized government buildings and demanded a referendum vote to declare Donetsk an independent republic.
Unrest in Sloviansk, Donetsk and other parts of eastern Ukraine flared after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula after weeks of unrest following the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The U.S., Ukraine and NATO all suspect that Russia has been purposely inciting unrest in the region to give probable cause to invade eastern Ukraine.
In a tense call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama "expressed concern about Russia's alleged interference in southeastern Ukraine." Putin denied the accusations and said they were based on inaccurate information.
The U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the EU will continue dialogue about the unrest in Ukraine during a meeting in Geneva on April 17.