Dozens of armed pro-Russian protesters have seized a police station in Slaviansk, a city in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. The group is part of several that have occupied government buildings in the Russian-speaking cities Donetsk and Luhansk in the past week.

About 20 masked men, carrying automatic rifles and pistols, guard the entrance to the police station, and another 20 are believed to be inside. According to a Reuters eye-witness, the men are wearing orange and black St. George's ribbons, a symbol of the Soviet victory in World War Two which has been adopted by pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted about the takeover on Facebook, saying, "Armed men in camouflage uniforms seized the police department in Slaviansk. The response will be very tough because there is a difference between protesters and terrorists."

Speaking to the AP, a masked guard in Slaviansk said that they took the building because they wanted to protect it from western Ukraine's radical nationalists, and that the group has "only one demand: a referendum and joining Russia."

[Photo credit: AP]