* Lviv regional parliament says takes power
* Protesters torch Interior Ministry barracks
* Signs of uprising spreading in Ukraine's west
By Lyubov Sorokina
LVIV, Ukraine, Feb 19 Opponents of Ukraine's
president declared political autonomy in the major western city
of Lviv on Wednesday after a night of violence when protesters
seized public buildings and forced police to surrender.
Raising the prospect of Ukraine splitting along a historic
cultural and linguistic faultline, the regional assembly in
Lviv, a bastion of Ukrainian nationalism near the Polish border,
issued a statement condemning President Viktor Yanukovich's
government for its "open warfare" on demonstrators in Kiev and
saying it took executive power locally for itself.
In other signs of fraying central control for a government
seen as close to business magnates from the Russian-speaking
east, Poland said Ukrainians blocked the Korczowa border
crossing near Lviv. And local media said opposition groups in
other western cities, including Khmelnitsky, Ivano-Frankivsk,
Uzhorod and Ternopil, also took over public buildings.
Overnight in Lviv, an ancient city of 750,000 and capital of
a region of 2.5 million, hundreds of people took part in
protests as demonstrators fought riot police in central Kiev,
nearly 500 km (300 miles) to the east.
Young men in ski masks seized the offices of Yanukovich's
administration in Lviv and forced a surrender by Interior
Ministry police, making officers come out with their hands up.
The developments, in a region traditionally hostile to the
easterner Yanukovich and fiercely in favour of closer ties with
the European Union, drove home the sense of a country, or at
least part of it, slipping from his grip.
It underscored, too, the dangers facing a divided Ukraine,
its 46 million people trapped in a geopolitical tug-of-war
between Russia and the West.
From late on Tuesday, taking their cue from the drama in
Kiev that was Ukraine's bloodiest day in just over 22 years of
post-Soviet independence, mobs swept through Lviv's picturesque
city centre in a spasm of violence that went unchallenged.
Erecting barricades outside a police barracks, the
protesters demanded their surrender. Officers filed out, hands
above their heads, and were stripped of their body armour.
The barracks were set ablaze, as were the office of the
state security service and the premises of the state prosecutor.
Rioters tossed papers through smashed windows.
Torched cars lay upturned in the streets.
"We are the citizens of Lviv," the crowd chanted. "We are
The regional parliament in Lviv accused Yanukovich's
government of "open warfare against the people".
"The parliament takes upon itself all responsibility for the
future of the region and its people," it said in the statement.
Though many leaders on either side of the confrontation in
Ukraine play down cultural and linguistic tensions, there are
marked contrasts between east and west.
Lviv's baroque and neoclassical architecture recalls its
past as a regional capital of the Austrian Habsburg empire.
Between the world wars, it was Polish. By contrast, Soviet
concrete marks the cities of eastern Ukraine, home to coal and
steel industries and historically ruled by the Russian tsars.
Yanukovich's political base, many people in the east speak
Russian as their first language and prefer to maintain old
connections with Moscow. Many western Ukrainians, eager for
closer ties with the European Union, accuse Yanukovich of being
a Kremlin stooge and mastermind of corruption on a grand scale.
Ukrainian television said that in Khmelnitsky protesters had
seized the regional administration building and had attacked the
headquarters of the state security service.
Police said protesters had also seized the administration
building in Ivano-Frankivsk, to the southeast of Lviv. Media
reports said the main police station in Ternopil was set ablaze.
In the east of the country, cities were calm.