April 9 - A standoff among pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine moves into its third day as the central government in Kiev warns it could use force to restore order. Mana Rabiee reports.
A standoff is now in its third day in eastern Ukraine. That's where pro-Russian separatists have occupied a handful of government buildings across several cities. They're demanding regional referendums on independence from the central government in Kiev. ... similar to the one that led to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region last month. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) ANDREI, PROTESTER, SAYING: "We have serious intentions to stand till the end, we have no other way anyway. Our country, Ukraine, has decided that we are terrorists, separatists. Every person who is here now…each of them know that there is no way back." The occupation in one of the cities, Kharkiv, is said to be over. But in the mining center of Donetsk, home base to deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, the standoff continues. Protesters were said to be preparing petrol bombs. Some have automatic rifles. Ukraine's Interior minister says the crisis will end within 48 hours, one way or another. SOUNDBITE (Russian) UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTER, ARSEN AVAKOV, SAYING: "For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities." Ukraine says the standoff is part of Russian-led plans to dismember the country and could provide Moscow a pretext for invasion. Moscow denies the charge. In Luhansk, the leader of the armed protesters made an emotional plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) ARMED ACTIVISTS' LEADER, VITALY, SAYING: "I understand that we will be trying to resolve all this by ourselves. But we may fail. Mr. Putin, have mercy on your fighters. If you lose us then you will lose the last hope to create a good neighbor." Talks were underway to diffuse the tension and local lawmakers have proposed an amnesty for the protesters.