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Authorities in Kharkov urge thousands to rally to protect city from unrest

March 01, 2014, 6:56 UTC+3 KHARKOV
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KHARKOV, March 01. /ITAR-TASS/. The authorities in Kharkov, a major industrial centre and transportation hub in eastern Ukraine, are going to stage a major rally in the city’s central square to show potential trouble-makers the determination to quash any attempts at provoking unrest.

“Thousands of concerned people will take to the streets on Saturday to show the determination to protect their city and their homes,” Mayor Gennady Kernes said on Friday.

Local television has for several days played video clips with calls for coming to the rally. The invitations are also being sent through social networks and the Internet. On the streets, activists have been handing out leaflets.

Kernes promised the demonstration would be peaceful.

“We are to demonstrate our hospitality to the guests from Kiev and the Western regions,” he said. He used the word “guests” in relation to the picketers, who have been demonstrating in front of the regional administration building in the centre of Kharkov for the past week.

Kernes said the people should turn out for the rally to drive the message home their opinion is to be taken into account and respected in making decisions on any issues, not just the future of this or that monument, but many others as well. The Russian language is the most sensitive issue in Kharkov, because a majority of the local population consider it as their mother tongue, alongside Ukrainian.

Also, many in Kharkov are angry over the influx of activists from Ukraine’s western regions, first and foremost, for economic reasons. Over the past few days there have been ever more frequent calls for a stop to subsidising the western regions, which, many local residents argue, “are destabilizing the situation instead of working hard.”

Kernes said the rally would hear a statement by Mikhail Dobkin, until recently the Kharkov Region’s governor, who several days ago declared his presidential ambitions.

In the meantime, the region’s deputy governor, Vasily Khoma, said on Friday that the building of the regional administration, seized six days ago, would be freed on March 1. He explained that the supporters of the new authorities had agreed in principle they would leave the offices and return to the Shevchenko monument, the original site of their protests.

The demonstrators have vacated the second and third floors of the building, but about 50 people still remain on the ground floor. Originally, there were no less than 300 of them. There has been no response to this statement from the activists. An Itar-Tass correspondent has repeatedly been witness to certain rifts among the protesters. For instance, according to some demonstrators, the radical Right Sector movement claims that it will accept instructions from Kiev alone and is in no mood to agree with anybody.

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