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Kyiv Says Chance Of War With Russia 'Growing'

Ukrainian soldiers walk out of a Ukrainian air force base in the small Crimean city of Novofedorivka after it was stormed by pro-Russian protesters on March 22.
Ukrainian soldiers walk out of a Ukrainian air force base in the small Crimean city of Novofedorivka after it was stormed by pro-Russian protesters on March 22.
Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya has said that the chances of war between his country and Russia are growing.

Speaking on ABC-TV’s “This Week” program on March 23, Deshchytsya said: "We don't know what Putin has in his mind... That's why this situation is becoming even more explosive than it used to be a week ago."

In Washington, a top White House aide said it's possible that Russia could invade eastern Ukraine.

Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken told CNN's "State of the Union" program that Russia seems to be trying to intimidate Ukraine by massing thousands of troops along the border.

Blinken said the United States is looking at providing military assistance to Ukraine.

However, he said "it's very unlikely to change Russia's calculus and prevent an invasion."

Earlier on March 23, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov demanded that Russia release the top Ukrainian military commander at the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol.

Turchynov said Colonel Yuliy Mamchur was "abducted" after the base was stormed by Russian armored vehicles and troops.

Russian armored vehicles smashed into the base on March 22, followed by Russian soldiers who exchanged gunfire with Ukrainian troops who refused to surrender. At least one Ukrainian soldier was wounded.

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Russia’s Defense Ministry said on March 23 that the Russian flag is now flying over 189 military installations in Crimea after Russian forces took control of Belbek and another base at Novofedorovka, near Sevastopol.

In Simferopol, Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov predicted that Russian forces soon would soon invade eastern Ukraine under the Kremlin’s claim that Russian-speakers there need protection.

"Here in Crimea we have been waiting [for Russia's help] and hoping for it for a very long time," he said. "Now, however, I dare to assure you, we can see that it was not in vain. I am confident that [Russia] will answer a sincere call for help from other Ukrainian regions in the same brotherly manner."

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In Brussels on March 23, NATO's top military commander warned that Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders pose a threat to Moldova’s separatist Transdniester region.

U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, made the remarks at the German Marshall Fund's "Brussels Forum."

"There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the Eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transdniester -- if the decision was made to do that -- and that is very worrisome," he said.

Breedlove accused Russia of "acting much more like an adversary than a partner" of NATO.

"We think that what we see [is] a tool now of frozen conflicts being used as a veto to EU and NATO membership," he said. "In other words, if Russia is worried about a country moving towards the West, the way to solve that is an incursion, a frozen conflict, and now no one wants to think about bringing nations aboard into NATO because it might mean conflict with Russia."

He also said NATO has moved weaponry closer to Russia to counter its mobilization of forces on its eastern borders and the deployment of fighter jets into Belarus.

"You have already seen that the United States -- inside my European command -- have moved forward F-16s from Aviano [Air Base in Italy] into Poland," he said. "You've seen that we have moved F-15s from Lakenheath [Air Base in England] into the Baltics; you've seen that we have moved some of our naval assets around to make sure that we remain engaged in the Black Sea. There are more things we are considering. I'd rather not make those public right now."

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 23 ordered that a Russian government administration be put in place in Crimea within the next week.

Putin's decree calls for police, civil defense, domestic intelligence, and other governmental structures to be aligned with Russian law and procedures by March 29.

It comes two days after Putin signed laws declaring Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On March 24, the Russian ruble is to be introduced in Crimea as an official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
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