About 1,000 people attacked the Interior Ministry headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine, on Sunday to demand the release of the pro-Russians being held there after the clashes that last Friday took the lives of 46 people in that city on the Black Sea.

The pro-Russian protesters threw stones at the building's windows, but dozens of anti-riot police equipped with shields and helmets blocked their passage, local media reported.

The attackers wanted to prevent their comrades from being transported to the courthouse where a judge was to hand down preliminary rulings in their cases.

"Odessa, Russian city" and "Out with the Junta" in Kiev were a couple of the slogans chanted by the demonstrators, among whom were numerous young people.

The demonstrators came to the site after marching through the streets of the city from the Union Hall, where a fire on Friday killed about 40 people, most of them pro-Russian supporters of making Ukraine into a federation.

They joined hundreds of relatives and friends of the detained people who had gathered hours earlier before the building, and the larger group blocked the adjacent street and wrote slogans on the nearby walls and tacked posters to trees saying things like "Freedom for the Odessa heroes," and the like.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who on Sunday came to Odessa, blamed the police for the violent clashes between pro-Russians and pro-Ukrainians that resulted in the dozens of deaths and the arrests of some 150.

He also said that a special committee formed by the General Prosecutors Office will investigate the circumstances of the deaths to "find all the ringleaders and organizers" of the disturbances.

Ukraine declared Saturday and Sunday to be days of national mourning for the Odessa tragedy and tens of thousands of people on Sunday gathered at local churches to pay homage to the dead. EFE