Pro-Russian leaders in Crimea made final preparations on Saturday for a referendum widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea region from Ukraine to Moscow, despite an outcry and threat of sanctions from the West. Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that declared the referendum invalid, as Ukraine’s defense ministry said it scrambled aircraft and paratroops to confront a Russian encroachment beyond Crimea’s regional boundary. Ukraine’s new rulers accused “Kremlin agents” of fomenting deadly violence in the Russian-speaking east and urged people not to respond to provocations Kiev fears Moscow may use to justify further incursions its takeover of Crimea. Russia issued a new statement saying it was ready to protect Ukrainians from nationalist militants it said were threatening eastern cities. Sunday’s vote in Crimea, dismissed by Kiev and Western governments as illegal, has triggered the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War and marks a new peak in turmoil in Ukraine that goes back to November when now ousted President Viktor Yanukovich walked out on a trade deal with the European Union. Though the situation was calm on the Black Sea peninsula itself on Saturday ahead of the vote, tensions remained high in eastern Ukraine where… Read full this story
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