Dozens of pro-Kremlin militants have seized a regional television station in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk.
Wearing camouflage uniforms and armed with baseball bats and knives, the insurgents occupied the interior of the building on Sunday, preventing anyone entering.
Most wore a red armband bearing the name of the pro-Russian group Oplot (Bastion).
They were not carrying visible firearms but militants carried several heavy bags inside the building and refused to answer reporters’ questions.
The insurgents covered the trident, Ukraine’s national symbol, adorning the entrance with a sticker bearing the name of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk Republic”.
“The journalists will be allowed to continue to work but they will have to tell the truth,” said one militant, who gave his name as Stanislav.
“The Russian channels tell the truth. We demand to have channels in Donetsk that tell the truth.”
The station headquarters will be guarded “day and night,” he added.
Russian TV channels are banned in Ukraine, where the authorities accuse them of spreading propaganda.
The station’s chief later spoke to the several international reporters gathered outside.
“Our channels have not yet changed,” Oleg Djolos said.
“Our journalists and staff are of course worried but the men who have taken control of our station have pledged to guarantee our safety,” he added.
Nearby, six Ukrainian police officers, at least three of whom were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, watched the events unfold without intervening.
Asked about this, Djolos said: “You will have to ask them. They are Ukrainian policemen.”
The officers declined to comment.
“We will come to work at the normal time tomorrow,” the director said.
“We are a regional Ukrainian television station. We are not a broadcasting centre. The decision to broadcast one channel or the other is not taken at our level.”
When pro-Russia protesters took control of the Crimean peninsula last month, backed by Russian special forces, the TV stations were swiftly occupied in similar operations.