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IMF Approves $17 Billion Package as Ukraine Lurches Toward Abyss

Putin calls for end to military operations in the south and east of the country as Kiev admits losing control

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Pro-Russian protesters scuffle with Ukrainian security officers near the regional government building in Donetsk, Sunday, April 6, 2014, part of an action that resulted in the seizure of the building. (Photo: Reuters)The takeover of additional government buildings in eastern Ukraine on Thursday appeared to confirm statements from officials in Kiev that the interim goverment is fast losing control of the region despite military operations and previous vows to quell protests and dismantle encampments held by pro-Russian citizens in numerous cities.

A pro-Russian protester confronts police near the regional government building. (Photo: Reuters) In Donetsk a dramatic confrontation occurred at the local prosecutor's headquarters between state security forces loyal to Kiev and locals demanding a referendum vote on the future of the eastern city.

As the following footage from Donetsk shows, the local pro-Russian forces overpowered the riot police, pelting them with stones and chunks of concrete before stripping them of their shields and forcing them away from the building:

Also on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone and said that the government in Kiev should halt its military operations in the east of Ukraine in order to promote the possibility of a "national dialogue" that could lead to the end of the crisis.

According to the Russian news agency Interfax, Putin emphasized to Merkel that it was vital for the authorities in Kiev "to withdraw all military units from the southeastern regions, stop the violence and immediately launch a broad national dialogue as part of the constitutional reform process involving all regions and political forces.”

Al-Jazeera reports, citing comments by a Merkel spokesperson, that the focus of the call had been "the German chancellor asking for Putin's assistance in freeing seven observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe who are being held by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine."

The latest conflagrations in the east come a day after the International Monetary Fund approved an aid and loan package worth nearly $17 billion. Though many in the western mainstream media have treated the deal as a "life line" to a nation teetering on the brink of political and economic collapse, others have consistently pointed out (here, here, and here) that the debt burden and austerity measures tied to the package may do the people of Ukraine more harm than good in the long run.

Regarding another aspect of the crisis, this report gathered from various agencies adds:

The Russian foreign ministry said earlier on Thursday that a proposal from Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to hold a poll on Ukrainian unity and territorial integrity was a sham that would only deepen the crisis in the country.

On Wednesday, Yatsenyuk said the Kiev government would send to parliament a law on conducting the nationwide poll on 25 May, when the country is also due to hold a presidential election.

The Russian foreign ministry said the plans were "cynical" given what it said was Kiev's military operation against "its own people".

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