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Pro-Russia demonstrators who seized a building in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have declared a new "republic" and are seeking their own Crimean-style independence vote.

The declaration came soon after the interim leaders in Kiev blamed Russia for spurring unrest in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian activists have been storming government offices in a number of cities. Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said during an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday that "the [Kremlin's] plan is to destabilize the situation, the plan is for foreign troops to cross the border and seize the country's territory, which we will not allow." This morning, pro-Russia groups took control of state security buildings in Luhansk. 

In the city of Donetsk protesters, who have been occupying government buildings since Sunday, took things a step further, saying the city is now a "people's republic." The BBC reports

Footage online showed a Russian speaker telling the assembly "I proclaim the creation of the sovereign state of the People's Republic of Donetsk." The rebels are reported to have called a referendum on forming a new republic.

Apparently, the People's Republic of Donetsk is moving fast:

Over the weekend, a pro-Russia group also took control of buildings in Kharkiv, but Ukrainian officials say those posts have since been abandoned. 

(AP Photo/Andrey Basevich

Meanwhile, Ukrainian media is also reporting that a Russian soldier shot and killed a Ukrainian officer in Crimea, a rare show of military violence in the region. Russian troops have been occupying the peninsula since even before residents voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, and have remained there since the Kremlin annexed Crimea. But the occupation has been largely bloodless, with Ukrainian soldiers willingly backing down when confronted by the more-heavily armed Russian troops. Russian media reported that the incident occurred as a group of Ukrainian soldiers returned from a night of drinking , according to the Guardian

Russian media reports said a group of Ukrainian soldiers in the village of Novofedorivka had been drinking and were on their way home when they passed Russian soldiers guarding an entry to the military base where they previously worked, and an argument broke out between the two groups."

But Ukrainian media says the circumstances of the attack, in which the victim's roommate was also reportedly beaten are unclear. The BBC reports: 

A defense ministry spokesman said the soldier had been preparing his belongings to leave Crimea in a few days, when an argument broke out with Russian servicemen. He was then shot twice on the fifth floor of the dormitory where he lived.

And the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine squarely blamed Russia for the incident: 

The killing is now under criminal investigation, but with more reports of Russian troops massing near the Ukrainian border, the talk of more independence will only fuel worries of a larger invasion.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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