By Jim Heintz , AP
KIEV, Ukraine–Anti-government protesters on Saturday seized a regional administration building, news reports said, and officials warned that police could storm the Kiev city hall to free two policemen allegedly captured by demonstrators.
Protesters have occupied the city hall for nearly two months and turned it into a makeshift dormitory and headquarters. Protesters deny they are holding the officers.
A ministry statement warned that police would storm the building if the two officers were not released. It said another officer who had been injured while being seized had been released and was hospitalized in serious condition.
The city hall is only a few hundred meters from both the site of protracted clashes between police and protesters over the past week and Independence Square, where demonstrators have set up an extensive tent camp and conducted round-the-clock protests since early December.
An attempt by police to storm the building would likely set off new clashes.
Protesters on Saturday morning seized the headquarters of the energy ministry, but left it several hours later. Energy Minister Eduard Stavitskiy was quoted by the Unian news agency as saying that all the country’s nuclear power facilities were put on high alert after the seizure.
In Vinnitsya, about 180 kilometers southwest of Kiev, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the local administration building, Ukrainian news agencies said. Until the past week, the protests had been centered in Kiev with only smaller demonstrations elsewhere, but since the Kiev clashes began on Sunday, a score of local government buildings have been seized in the country’s west, where support for President Viktor Yanukovych is thin.
Yanukovych has refused protesters’ demand to resign and call early elections, offering only minor concessions to the opposition Friday. Violent clashes then resumed in Kiev’s government district, with protesters pelting rocks and fire bombs at police, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.