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Ukraine says crews will defend ships

Monday - 3/3/2014, 4:30pm  ET

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's acting president says the crew members on two Ukrainian warships are "ready to defend their ships."

Ukraine says the crew members have been given an ultimatum by Russian troops -- either surrender the ships, or they will be seized. A Russian defense ministry spokesman is dismissing that report as nonsense, but he's refusing to elaborate. The ships are in a harbor in Ukraine's Crimea region, near Russia. Ukrainian officials say four Russian navy ships are blocking them.

Russia today has effectively turned Crimea into a protectorate. Russian soldiers are in control of all Crimean border posts, as well as all military facilities in the territory. They also control a ferry terminal in a city that's just 12 miles across the water from Russia.

As Russia tightens its stranglehold over Crimea, it's also calling for Ukraine to return to an agreement signed last month aimed at ending Ukraine's crisis. The agreement called for President Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH'-vich) to hold early elections and give up many of his powers. Yanukovych later fled to Russia.

Secretary of State John Kerry is heading to Kiev, in a show of support for Ukraine's sovereignty. The European Union, meanwhile, is threatening a series of sanctions as it calls an emergency summit on Ukraine for Thursday.

%@AP Links

183-c-20-(Sagar Meghani (SAH'-gur meh-GAH'-nee), AP national security correspondent)-"Russia directly responsible"-AP National Security Correspondent Sagar Meghani reports a Ukrainian military spokesman says Russia has issued a threat against the crews of two Ukrainian warships in Crimea. (3 Mar 2014)

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182-w-32-(Sagar Meghani (SAH'-gur meh-GAH'-nee), AP national security correspondent, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki)--The U.S is warning Russia over reports that Moscow's is threatening Ukraine's Navy. AP National Security Correspondent Sagar Meghani reports. (3 Mar 2014)

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GRAPHICSBANK: Troops in unmarked uniforms atop military vehicle bearing Russian number plate and emblem, Sevastopol, Ukraine, graphic element on gray (3 Mar 2014)

APPHOTO DCPM115: Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Vice President Joe Biden listen to President Barack Obama answers a question regarding the ongoing situation in the Ukraine, during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Monday, March 3, 2014, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Kerry will travel to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev tomorrow to meet with government officials and comes as the U.S. and other Western nations weigh a response to Russia's military advance into Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (3 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XAZ118: A Ukrainian national flag flies on the board of Ukrainian navy ship Slavutich at harbor of Sevastopol, Ukraine, Monday, March 3, 2014. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that Russian forces that have overtaken Ukraine's strategic region of Crimea are demanding that the ship's crew surrender. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov) (3 Mar 2014)

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