Pro-Russia protesters are bolstering their defenses in eastern Ukraine as Kiev threatens to use force to settle the situation. "A resolution to this crisis will be found within the next 48 hours," Ukraine's interior minister says, per Reuters. "For those who want dialogue, we propose talks and a political solution. For the minority who want conflict, they will get a forceful answer from the Ukrainian authorities." The separatist protesters, meanwhile, have built gasoline bombs and installed barricades of tires and crates around a seized security building in the eastern city of Luhansk.
The separatists had been holding 60 people hostage, according to Ukrainian security services; they've now let 56 people leave, though it's not certain if those who have left were part of the reported 60, the AP notes. Protesters are also holding a building in the city of Donetsk; in Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces have retaken another site, they say, via the BBC. John Kerry says Russia is "the catalyst behind the chaos of the last 24 hours," and German leader Angela Merkel says it's "not clear that Russia is contributing to a de-escalation of the situation." For its part, Russia says the US and Ukraine "have no reason to be worried," Reuters notes. Despite a direct appeal from a separatist leader in Luhansk for Vladimir Putin to "have mercy on your fighters," Putin says Russia doesn't plan to invade, but says it has the right to stand up for its interests. (Read more Ukraine stories.)