* Masked men with truncheons guarding entrance
* Station boss says being forced to show Russian news
* Crowd of 400 people outside chanted "Russia!"
* Police officer says was pointless trying to resist
(Updates with comment from police officer)
By Maria Tsvetkova
DONETSK, Ukraine, April 27 Pro-Russian
separatists on Sunday seized control of the offices of regional
state television in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and
said they would take it off air and broadcast a Kremlin-backed
Russian channel instead.
A Reuters reporter said four separatists in masks, with
truncheons and shields, were standing at the entrance to the
building controlling access, while more separatists in
camouflage fatigues could be seen inside.
About 15 police officers were standing a short distance away
but were not trying to resist the separatists. One police
lieutenant, who was sitting in a police vehicle nearby, said it
would have been pointless to intervene.
It was the first time the station had been seized by the
separatists, though previously a transmission tower in the
Donetsk region had briefly been seized and technicians forced to
broadcast Russian stations' output.
Pro-Russian separatists, some of them armed, have seized
about a dozen official buildings in eastern Ukraine. They say
they are rising up against a Ukrainian government they say is
illegitimate, but Kiev says they are proxies of the Russian
government bent on destabilising Ukraine.
About an hour after the station in Donetsk was overrun, it
was still broadcasting its scheduled programmes, a children's
show called "Circle of the Sun".
But the station's director, Oleg Dzholos, who came outside
to speak to reporters, said the people who seized the building
had ordered him to change the programming.
"They used force to push back the gates," he said. "There
were no threats. There were not many of my people. What can a
few people do? The leaders of this movement just gave me an
ultimatum that one of the Russian channels has to be broadcast."
Dzholos said three of his staff were still inside the
building, and that the separatists had not ejected him from his
Separatists who swear allegiance to the self-proclaimed
Donetsk People's Republic already control the regional
governor's office and the city hall in Donetsk, the regional
A man in a white shirt who came out of the building and said
he was a representative of the Donetsk People's Republic said
that from now on the station would be broadcasting Rossiya 24, a
Russian state-owned news channel.
Earlier, a crowd of around 400 people surrounded the
building and shouted "Russia!" and "Referendum!," a reference to
a vote the separatists want to hold on seceding from Ukraine.
The protesters later drifted away, but the separatist guards on
the doors remained.
One of the masked men at the entrance, asked why the
building had been seized, said: "They show lies, they try to
influence the people and they broadcast misinformation."
The police officer sitting in his vehicle nearby, who gave
his name as Vitaly, said his superiors had ordered him to
protect the building after they received information that a
crowd was heading to the television station.
"I don't see any point in using force," he said. "It would
not have worked if we had tried to stop anybody, there were a
lot of people here."
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Christian Lowe;
Editing by Nigel Stephenson)