LUHANSK , Ukraine, April 29 (UPI) -- An administration building in Luhansk, Ukraine, 20 miles from the Russian border, was stormed and occupied by pro-Russian separatists Tuesday.
Several dozen men, armed with sticks and steel bars, smashed windows and doors to enter the building, unattended by local police, where they shouted “Referendum now” before pulling down the Ukrainian flag and flying the tri-color Russian flag atop the building.
In an indoor courtyard they found security personnel in riot gear, but after a standoff, there was no report of violence.
“The regional leadership does not control its police force,” said Stanislav Rechynsky, and aide to the Ukraine Interior Minister in Kiev. “The local police did nothing.”
The invasion came after hundreds gathered outside the building to demand a referendum on greater autonomy to the city of 465,000 and other parts of eastern Ukraine. Until the administration building was overtaken, only the city’s state security service headquarters had been targeted by separatist forces. Rechynsky said the government received information a television station in Luhansk was the next potential target.