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Rebels lift siege of police HQ in Ukraine's Lugansk

Youths paint a symbolic map of Ukraine, with the colour red distinguishing the Donetsk region, Lugansk region and Crimea, and writing which reads "The map of Ukraine's losses" in front of the Parliament in Kiev on April 30, 2014 to protest against what they consider as the central government's passivity in the eastern regions of the country. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY

LUGANSK, Ukraine: Pro-Russian insurgents Wednesday lifted an armed siege of a regional police headquarters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk, an AFP reporter on the scene saw, after the chief officer agreed to resign.

A police spokeswoman said the officers inside had refused to give up their weapons to a crowd of some 1,000 pro-Moscow militants led by 30 or so armed men carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenade-launchers, who had tried to storm the building overnight.

"The chief inspector has resigned. We are awaiting the appointment of his successor. In the meantime, the Lugansk police is functioning normally -- well, as normal as could be expected under the circumstances," the spokeswoman said.

The police HQ was the scene of a tense stand-off late Tuesday between the protesters and the police who had barricaded inside the building in the city of 465,000 people.

Rebels already hold the SBU security services building and the regional administration building.

The protesters tried to smash down the metal door of the headquarters and the police replied with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades.

Late Tuesday, some 30 or so visibly scared police conscripts were led out of the building through a hostile crowd and onto waiting buses. But their higher-paid professional superiors remained inside.

The Western-backed authorities in Kiev have voiced exasperation at what the interim president has called the "inaction" and "treachery" of the police services who have at times stood by while violence raged.

Many police officers in the east -- who receive monthly pay of just $200 -- have done little to stop the rebels taking public buildings. In some cases, they appeared to share the pro-Russian sympathies of the militants they were ordered to square off against.

Kiev has urged civilian volunteers in the east to join territorial brigades to help back the police, but so far there was no sign of that happening.

 

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Summary

Pro-Russian insurgents Wednesday lifted an armed siege of a regional police headquarters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk, an AFP reporter on the scene saw, after the chief officer agreed to resign.

A police spokeswoman said the officers inside had refused to give up their weapons to a crowd of some 1,000 pro-Moscow militants led by 30 or so armed men carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenade-launchers, who had tried to storm the building overnight.

The police HQ was the scene of a tense stand-off late Tuesday between the protesters and the police who had barricaded inside the building in the city of 465,000 people.

Rebels already hold the SBU security services building and the regional administration building.


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