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Ukraine raises flag over Donetsk government building

Ukraine on raised its flag over the government headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk where a Russian flag had stood since Saturday. Reuters/Valeriy Bilokryl
Ukraine on raised its flag over the government headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk where a Russian flag had stood since Saturday. Reuters/Valeriy Bilokryl

DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukraine on Wednesday raised its flag over the government headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk where a Russian flag had stood since Saturday, witnesses said.

Police said they were evacuating the building, which has been occupied since Monday by pro-Russian demonstrators. A police statement said the evacuation began after reports that the building was booby-trapped with explosives.

Donetsk, home city of deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, is one of around a half dozen cities in eastern Ukraine that saw pro-Russian protests erupt on Saturday just as President Vladimir Putin was announcing that he had the right to invade.

Demonstrators, led by a man who declared himself "people's governor", have been holed up in the regional administration building, demanding relations with Kiev be severed and control over the police and security forces be placed in their hands.

Kiev accues Moscow of organising the protests and says many of the demonstrators are Russians bused across the border to create an excuse for military intervention.

"A message was received at 8:30 (0630 GMT) from an unknown person that there is a grenade in the regional council building," said Olga Pochkalova, police spokeswoman. "An investigative-operational team is checking and people are being led out of the building."

Witnesses said the Russian flag on the roof of the 11-storey building was replaced with a Ukrainian flag, but another Russian flag was still flying from a flagpole in front.

(Reporting by Lina Kushch; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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