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Russian drills at Ukraine border
24 Apr 2014 18:06
Ukraine's acting president Oleksander Turchynov has called on Russia to pull troops back from their border, stop interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs and end its "permanent threats and blackmail".
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Mr Turchynov broadcast his brief address to the nation after Russia said it had begun military exercises near the border in response to escalation by Ukraine.
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He told the nation that Russia was "demonstratively concentrating armed forces" on the frontier.
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"We will not give into terrorist threats and will go on taking measures to protect the lives of our citizens," Mr Turchynov said.
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"We demand Russia end its interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine, its permanent threats and blackmail, and withdraw its troops from the eastern border of our country."
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Ukrainian Interior Ministry and Defence Ministry forces were in action against pro-Russian separatist rebels near the eastern city of Slaviansk earlier today and said they killed "up to five".
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Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has promised to protect Russian-speakers in Ukraine, said there would be consequences if the authorities in Kiev used the army against their own people.
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"If Kiev really began to use the army against the country's population ... that is a very serious crime against its own people," Mr Putin said, calling the current pro-West authorities a "junta".
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"That is simply a punitive measure that will without question have consequences ... including for our inter-governmental relations."
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Ukraine's military launched an assault on Slaviansk sending in armoured vehicles and a helicopter.
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Several armoured personnel carriers drove past an abandoned rebel roadblock in flames to take up position at the entry to the town.
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Shooting was heard as a helicopter flew overhead. Pro-Russian gunmen in the town retreated to defensive positions.
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A spokeswoman for the separatists, Stella Khorocheva, said that all civilians had been ordered out of the town hall.
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"The armed men handling the defence of the town hall will remain," she said.
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