Ukraine Latest: Sunday 'Referendum'; Protests in Russia; Obama Briefed

By: ap
By: ap
Ukraine says Russian forces make foray outside Crimea as referendum looms... Russia vetoes UN resolution on Crimea

Map of Ukraine; Crimea is the peninsula at the bottom of the map, just above the words 'Black Sea'.

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukrainian officials say Russian troops backed by helicopter gunships and armored vehicles have taken control of a village near the border with Crimea.
The action in Strilkove appears to be the first move outside Crimea, where Russian forces have been in effective control since late last month. There were no reports of gunfire or injuries, but the incident is raising tensions on the eve of a referendum on whether Crimea should split from Ukraine and seek to join Russia.
In a statement, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denounced the foray outside Crimea, and said Ukraine "reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia."
Ukraine's new government and the West have denounced Sunday's referendum as illegitimate, and the West is threatening to impose sanctions against Russia if it incorporates Crimea. However, residents in Crimea are expected to vote in favor of a split.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Britain's U.N. Ambassador says the Security Council has sent Russia a "resounding message" that it stands isolated in the international community.
Russia today vetoed a resolution declaring tomorrow's referendum on the future of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula illegal. The veto was expected, but supporters of the U.S.-sponsored resolution put the resolution to a vote to show the strength of opposition to Moscow's takeover of Crimea.
Thirteen nations voted "yes," while China abstained in a show of Moscow's isolation.
The resolution would have reaffirmed the council's commitment to Ukraine's "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity."

MOSCOW (AP) -- Not everyone in Russia is backing Sunday's referendum in Crimea on whether to break away from Ukraine and merge with Russia.
Tens of thousands gathered Saturday in downtown Moscow in the largest anti-government demonstration since 2012, protesting against the Kremlin-backed referendum.
Demonstrators waved Russian and Ukrainian flags while opposition activists -- including the two members of the punk band Pussy Riot who served prison terms for an anti-government stunt -- shouted "Say no to war!" and "Putin, go away!" from a stage.
Protesters also carried banners that read: "For your freedom and for ours!" One demonstrator held up a plate of salo -- cured pork fat that is a staple of Ukrainian cuisine and adored by many Russians -- along with a poster that read: "Make salo, not war!"
Not far away near the Kremlin, several thousand people dressed in matching red costumes marched in formation to show their support for Russian intervention in the region.
Support for reclaiming Crimea, where a majority of residents speak Russian, has intensified amid relentless state television coverage of the region.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama is getting regular updates on the situation in Ukraine.
Obama's national security team is discussing Ukraine at a White House meeting Saturday, the eve of a vote on whether Ukraine's Russia-leaning Crimea region should secede and seek annexation by Moscow. Obama and the leaders of other Western nations have denounced the vote as illegal and say they won't recognize the results.
Earlier Saturday at the United Nations, Russia vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution declaring Sunday's referendum illegal.
Crimea became a flashpoint after Ukraine's pro-Russia president fled the country last month after months of anti-government protests.
Russia refuses to recognize Ukraine's new government and has effectively taken control of the Crimea region.


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