Ukrainian militia rejects calls to leave buildings

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A pro-Russian protester holds icons as he stands outside a city hall bearing flags representing the Donetsk Republic in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Three pro-Russian protesters were killed and 13 injured during an attempted raid overnight on a Ukrainian National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine’s authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A pro-Russian protester holds icons as he stands outside a city hall bearing flags representing the Donetsk Republic in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Three pro-Russian protesters were killed and 13 injured during an attempted raid overnight on a Ukrainian National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine’s authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A man holds a Ukrainian national flag during a rally in support of a united Ukraine in Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. will send nonlethal assistance to Ukraine’s military in light of what he called Russia’s ongoing destabilizing actions there. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

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DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.

Denis Pushilin, a spokesman of the self-appointed Donetsk People’s Republic, told reporters that the insurgents do not recognize the Ukrainian government as legitimate.

Ukraine and Russia on Thursday agreed to take tentative steps toward calming tensions along their shared border after more than a month of bloodshed. But Pushilin, speaking at the insurgent-occupied regional administration’s building in Donetsk, said the deal specifies that all illegally seized buildings should be vacated and in his opinion the government in Kiev is also occupying public buildings illegally.

“This is a reasonable agreement but everyone should vacate the buildings and that includes Yatsenyuk and Turchynov,” he said referring to the acting Ukrainian prime minister and president.

The deal calls for disarming all paramilitary groups and the immediate return of all government buildings seized by pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine as well as pro-West right-wing protesters in Kiev. But none of the government buildings seized across eastern Ukraine has yet been vacated, according to local media.

The Ukrainian government as well as the Right Sector movement, whose activists are occupying Kiev’s city hall and a cultural center in the capital, have not commented on the call for buildings in Kiev to be vacated.

Pushilin on Friday reiterated the insurgents’ call for a referendum that he said will allow “self-determination of the people.”

The Russian foreign ministry had no immediate comment.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the parliament Friday morning that the government has drafted a law that would offer amnesty to all those who will be willing to lay down their arms and leave the occupied government buildings.

On Thursday, thousands gathered at peaceful demonstrations in at least four eastern cities to denounce Russia for its perceived meddling in Ukrainian affairs. Political developments in eastern Ukraine have for weeks been dominated by a small but vocal and armed opposition to the interim government in Kiev.

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Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev and Laura Mills in Moscow contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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