DONETSK, Ukraine —
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the attackers in Slovyansk used tear gas and stun grenades when they stormed the building, injuring three policemen. The attackers’ goal was to seize arms from the police station, authorities said, adding that there were about 40 automatic rifles and 400 pistols as well as ammunition inside.
The Interior Ministry reported later on Saturday that men from the same group have seized the building of the local Security Service.
Local journalists captured a video outside the police station showing one man carrying a sniper rifle. Gunshots rang out in the background in the video from the scene after an armed man shouted to a cameraman to stop recording.
An AP reporter saw another man loading the magazine of a pistol at the station and sympathizers building barricades outside.
About 10 men wearing camouflage and carrying automatic rifles set up a makeshift checkpoint at the entrance to the city late Saturday afternoon.
The Kiev authorities and the United States have accused Russia of fomenting the unrest in the east and seeking to use it as a pretext for sending in troops. Russia has reportedly massed forces in areas near the Ukrainian border.
But Slovyansk Mayor Nelya Shtepa told the AP that she held talks with the protesters and said they were local residents, not Russians.
“They told me: ‘We don’t have anything against you,’ “ she said, adding that the men said they “want to be heard, want a dialogue with authorities in Kiev.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday warned the Ukrainian government against using force against protesters, saying that such action would derail the talks on settling the crisis between the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine set for next week, as well as any other diplomatic efforts.
Lavrov pressed the complaint in a telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deschytsia, on Saturday. He repeated the warning in his phone conversation with Kerry.