New York Times
DONETSK, Ukraine - Ukraine's acting prime minister Friday abandoned threats to forcibly evict pro-Russian demonstrators from government buildings and assured political and business leaders in the country's rebellious east that they would get more power to run their own affairs.
But the pledge by Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the head of a new central government in Kiev installed after the Feb. 21 flight of President Viktor Yanukovych, drew a dismissive response from protesters as a deadline set by the government to relinquish the occupied regional administration building here passed with no sign of an end to a volatile standoff, which began Sunday when protesters seized the building and declared the establishment of a People's Republic of Donetsk.
In a televised statement broadcast to a small and mostly elderly crowd outside the occupied building, Ekaterina Gubareva, the newly appointed "foreign minister" of the universally unrecognized Donetsk republic, denounced Yatsenyuk's government as a "junta" and repeated demands for a referendum to let local residents decide whether they want to secede and join Russia.
In Washington, the Obama administration blacklisted six separatist leaders in Crimea, a former Ukrainian official and a gas company based in Crimea for their roles in splitting off Crimea from Ukraine. They include Pyotr Zima, who headed the state security bureau in Crimea, and Sergei Tsekov, former vice speaker of Ukraine's Parliament, who helped facilitate the referendum that led to the annexation.
"We will continue to impose costs on those involved in ongoing violations of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The orders freeze any of the individuals' assets held in the United States and prohibit them from conducting business there or with U.S. citizens or entities.
Undeterred by that action, the Crimean legislature rushed to approve a new constitution Friday, binding the region even more closely to Russia in the wake of its annexation by Moscow last month. The new constitution states that Crimea is "an integral part" of the Russian Federation.
The vote brought strong protests from Crimea's Tatar minority.