DONETSK, Ukraine—A pro-Russian mob broke into the prosecutor’s office in this eastern Ukrainian city today, smashing windows and hanging a Russian flag over the building. The protesters were able to overwhelm about 70 police in riot gear.
One wounded policeman was lead away by paramedics.
Tensions are high as the Black Sea region of Crimean region, southwest of Donetsk, votes whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.
At a rally of about 8,000 people in a Donetsk square named for Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, protesters called for a referendum to decide whether this coal mining region in the Don River basin should join Russia. The area surrounding the Don is dominated by ethnic Russians.
The boisterous crowd held Russian white, blue, and red tri-colored flags, as well as orange and black flags that were waved at the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
The crowd also chanted “The fascists will not pass, “a reference to the newly appointed government of Ukraine, which Russian authorities and the state controlled Russian media say is dominated by ultra-nationalists.
The referendum in Crimea has divided this region and the international community.
Supporters say the region rightfully belongs to Russia and that the government that replaced fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych will abuse Crimea’s majority ethnic-Russian population.
Opponents bristle at Russia’s heavy hand. Crimea effectively is already under Russian control after forces were sent in last month.Material from wire services was included in this report. David Filipov can be reached at David.Filipov@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.