MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) – Major operation began in Ukraine’s Kharkiv, the city center is currently blocked, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Tuesday.
"Counterterrorism operation in Kharkiv has begun, city’s downtown is blocked. So are the metro stations. There is nothing to worry about. Kharkiv Regional State Administration building is clear from protesters. Firearms were not used during the operation,” Avakov wrote on his Facebook page.
He also claimed 70 people have already been arrested.
Pro-Russian opposition protesters have been rallying across Ukraine’s eastern and southeastern regions since the recent change of power in the country.
Acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deschytsia announced Monday that if the situation in the southeastern regions escalates, the government in Kiev will take “much harsher” measures than those that have preceded Crimea’s reunification with Russia last month.
Ukraine’s interim authorities vowed tough “anti-separatism measures” in eastern and southern regions with substantial ethnic Russian communities, which rallied that in support of greater autonomy over the weekend.
The Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine announced plans Monday to schedule a referendum by mid-May on declaring independence and joining Russia. Ukrainian media said similar intentions were voiced by protesters in Kharkiv late Monday, although no formal measures have been taken so far.
Russia has repeatedly said that Ukrainian nationalists and their aggressive rhetoric bear full responsibility for the crisis in the country, which resulted in the reunification of Crimea with Russia last month.
Moscow said that a federal form of government is the only way out of the protracted political crisis in Ukraine, currently a unitary state which is de-facto split into a Ukrainian-speaking west and Russian-speaking east and south.