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Ukraine President Offers Amnesty for Pro-Russians Occupying Buildings

Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov is promising amnesty for pro-Russian demonstrators if they give up their weapons and abandon government buildings under siege in two eastern Ukrainian cities.

Mr. Turchynov said Thursday he is willing to make his promise official in a presidential proclamation.

There has been no reply from the demonstrators, who took over official buildings in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. They are demanding referendums on whether to split with Ukraine and join Russia, the same vote that was held in Crimea last month.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the occupation of the buildings would be ended Friday, either by negotiations or by force.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders if Ukraine fails to pay off its $2.2 billion natural gas debt to Russia, deliveries of Russian natural gas to Europe, which cross Ukraine, could be disrupted.

Mr. Putin said that if the gas debt is not paid off, then Gazprom, Russia's state-run natural gas exporting monopoly, will be forced to demand that Ukraine pay for gas deliveries in advance. If that condition is not met, he added, Gazprom will be forced to halt gas deliveries to Ukraine "completely or partially."

Mr. Putin said Russia understands cutting gas deliveries to Ukraine is an "extreme measure" that "increases the risk" gas destined for European consumers will be subject to "unauthorized extraction" while crossing Ukrainian territory.

U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland told a U.S. Congressional committee Wednesday the building takeovers in eastern Ukraine were "very carefully orchestrated, well-planned, well-targeted" moves. She said there is "overwhelming evidence" of Russian involvement, and warned of consequences if the actions go unchecked.