Apr 9, 2014 10:59 PM by Connie Murphy
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Authorities in Ukraine's capital are warning that they are prepared to use force to clear several government buildings that have been seized by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The country's interior minister says the standoff in Luhansk and two neighboring regions must be resolved within the next two days.
As he spoke, anti-government protesters in Luhansk raised high barricades along a thoroughfare in front of the security service building. Hundreds of supporters camped outside overnight and chanted the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All of the cities affected by the uprisings are in Ukraine's industrial Russian-speaking heartland in the east. It has a large population of ethnic Russians, and economic and cultural ties to Russia are strong.
In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where protesters are occupying another government building, a regional governor met with activists to try to find a solution to the crisis.
The Ukrainian government and the United States have accused Moscow of encouraging the unrest, as a pretext for a Russian military incursion like last month's takeover of Crimea. NATO says up to 40,000 Russian troops are gathered along the Ukrainian border.
Meanwhile, Russia is threatening to start charging Ukraine in advance for natural gas supplies. That's a move that could sharply hurt Ukraine, which is already on the verge of bankruptcy.