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Published: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 7:50:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 7:50:02 PM

Armed pro-Russian separatists seize Donetsk council building

DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Dozens of masked pro-Russian separatists armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles have seized control of the city hall in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk demanding a referendum, a local government spokesman said on Tuesday

The three dozen men in mismatched camouflage gear and carrying assault and hunting rifles, pistols and knives took over the building at 0700 GMT, Donetsk city spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said.

"The police did not intervene. I would describe this situation as surreal... They demand the Ukrainian parliament adopt a law on local referendums," Rovinsky said.

The men have started assembling barricades, but are allowing people to enter and leave the building and have agreed not interfere with the work of the regional parliament, he added.

There were no obvious signs of barricades around the building, according to a Reuters witness.

Donetsk is the capital of a region that has become the focal point of Ukraine's standoff with separatist pro-Russians in its industrial east and southeast.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, armed men in motley army fatigues drove armoured personnel carriers, one flying the Russian flag, into the town of Slaviansk, stopping outside the town hall, which is also occupied by separatists.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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