DONETSK, Ukraine —
"What we see from Russia is an illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilize a sovereign state and create a contrived crisis with paid operatives across an international boundary," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee .
Kerry called the demonstrations in eastern Ukraine as a "contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea."
Addressing parliament in Kiev, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said security forces retook control of the Kharkiv administration building early Tuesday but several police were injured in the clashes with separatists.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov described the measure on his Facebook page as an "anti-terrorist operation."
In a session briefly interrupted by a brawl, parliament also voted to toughen the punishment for undermining Ukraine's national security, imposing jail terms of up to 5 years for separatism.
In Donetsk, there was little sign Tuesday evening that government forces had any immediate plan to retake the regional administration building. The city has seen weekly rallies marching on local government offices, but on Sunday groups of masked men carrying batons burst through police lines to take over the building.
By Tuesday, lines of car tires wrapped in razor wire had been erected to deter any possible attempts by police to storm the premises. The tactic appears to have been copied from the anti-government protests in the capital, Kiev, which led to Yanukovych's overthrow. Just like in Kiev, food stations have been created inside the Donetsk building, supplied by volunteers and residents.
No clear leader or agenda has emerged from the obscure group of pro-Russian Donetsk activists behind the standoff.
A declaration adopted Monday claimed sovereignty for what they called the "Donetsk Republic" and demanded a referendum to be held no later than May 11. While none of them have said they necessarily want the region to join Russia, they have also declined to rule out the option.