Armed men seize eastern Ukraine police station

Armed pro-Russian activists occupy the police station carrying riot shields as people watch on, in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Pro-Moscow protesters have seized a number of government buildings in the east over the past week, undermining the authority of the interim government in the capital, Kiev.

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Several dozen armed men seized a police station in a city in eastern Ukraine and hoisted the Russian flag above the building Saturday as tensions in the country’s Russian-speaking regions intensify.

The city of Slovyansk is about 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of the regional center, Donetsk, where pro-Russian protesters have occupied a government building for nearly a week.

About 20 men in balaclavas armed with automatic rifles and pistols were guarding the entrance to the police station in the city of about 120,000 people, and another 20 were believed to be inside. They wore St. George’s ribbons, which have become a symbol of pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine. The ribbons were originally associated with the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II.

Eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population, has seen waves of protests since Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in late February. The protesters allege that the authorities who took over are nationalists and “fascists” who aim to suppress the ethnic Russians in Ukraine.