KIEV, March 15 (RIA Novosti) – Two pro-Russian activists were killed in clashes with pro-Kiev supporters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, police said Saturday blaming the local radical group for the deaths.
Around 40 people from both sides were detained after the shootout, the second such deadly incident this week in the country’s east, which is likely to fuel tensions ahead of Sunday's referendum in Crimea on whether to stay with Ukraine or join Russia.
Clashes erupted between pro-Russian supporters and members of the Ukrainian radical group Right Sector late on Friday who barricaded themselves in a building in downtown Kharkiv and took three people hostage, including a policeman.
Radicals opened fire on the crowd and threw stun grenades and Molotov cocktails as demonstrators tried to storm the building. Five people, including a policeman, were injured.
After talks that involved Mayor Gennady Kernes, the radicals agreed to give up their arms and surrender. The hostages were released.
Earlier this week, violent clashes between two groups of demonstrators broke out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, leaving one person dead and at least 26 injured.
Crimea is one of several Ukrainian regions that have rejected as illegitimate the government in Kiev that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22 after months of street protests following his step back from closer ties with the European Union.
Russia is considering appeals by peaceful Ukrainian citizens who have requested Moscow’s protection from radicals, namely the members of the Right Sector, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
The ministry cited reports that armed gunmen were heading from Kharkiv to Donetsk, where some 1,000 people gathered for a pro-Russian rally Saturday.
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