DONETSK, Ukraine - Pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine on Saturday prepared to celebrate Orthodox Easter at barricades outside government offices seized in nearly a dozen cities, despite an international agreement to disarm and free the premises.
In Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, a co-chairman of the self-appointed Donetsk People's Republic, which is demanding broader regional powers and closer ties to Russia, vowed that insurgents will continue occupying government offices until the new pro-Western Kiev government is dismissed.
"We will leave only after the Kiev junta leaves," Pushilin told the Associated Press outside the occupied regional administration building. "First Kiev, then Donetsk."
Nearby, retiree Ksenia Shuleyko, 65, was handing out pieces of home-made Easter raisin cake, traditionally served for Orthodox Easter. Speaking from a red tent, decorated with a red hammer-and-sickle Soviet Union flag, Shuleyko expressed hope that Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last month, would also wield influence in the Donetsk region near the border with Russia, known as the Donbass.
The Easter preparations and fortification efforts come two days after top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union issued a statement calling for an array of actions including the disarming of militant groups and the freeing of public buildings taken over by insurgents.
Those terms quickly became a heated issue as pro-Russian armed groups that have seized police stations and other government buildings in eastern Ukraine said they wouldn't vacate unless the country's acting government resigned. At the same time, Pushilin told Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency, that his group could take part in a nation-wide roundtable on easing the crisis.