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Ukraine says Russian forces make foray outside Crimea as referendum looms

Saturday - 3/15/2014, 5:40pm  ET

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 Crime 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.

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163-c-17-(Jim Heintz, AP correspondent)-"forces outside Crimea"-AP correspondent Jim Heintz reports that on the eve of what's expected to be Crimea's vote to leave Ukraine for Russia, there's a new source of tension. (This refers to military action in Strilkove, a village near the border with Crimea.) (15 Mar 2014)

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165-c-20-(Jim Heintz, AP correspondent)-"up being divided"-AP correspondent Jim Heintz reports Sunday's planned referendum in Crimea -- which most of the world views as illegal -- will have am impact well beyond Ukraine and Russia. (15 Mar 2014)

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164-c-17-(Jim Heintz, AP correspondent)-"to Ukrainian officials"-AP correspondent Jim Heintz reports the Russian helicopter warships, armored vehicles and troops have crossed a short six miles beyond the Crimean border into another Ukrainian village that borders Crimea. (15 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XVG107: A pro-Russian soldier is back dropped by Russia flag while manning a machine-gun outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Ukraine, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Tensions are high in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, where a referendum is to be held Sunday on whether to split off from Ukraine and seek annexation by Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) (15 Mar 2014)

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APPHOTO XVG109: A pro-Russian soldier guards the perimeter where pro-Russian troops are stationed outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Ukraine, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Tensions are high in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, where a referendum is to be held Sunday on whether to split off from Ukraine and seek annexation by Russia.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) (15 Mar 2014)

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