KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia has ordered 150,000 troops to test their combat readiness in war games near the border with Ukraine.
The show of force has prompted a blunt warning from the United States, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying any military intervention in Ukraine would be a "grave mistake."
Vladimir Putin's announcement of the military maneuvers came as Ukraine's protest leaders named a former banker to head a new government after the pro-Russian president went into hiding.
Russia denies the exercises have any connection to the situation in Ukraine and has pledged not to intervene in its neighbor's domestic affairs. But Moscow also has issued a flurry of statements voicing concern for Russian-speaking Ukrainians, including in the Crimea peninsula, which hosts a major Russian naval base.
The divided allegiances between Russia and the West have led to confrontations between pro- and anti-Russia protesters in Crimea. The protesters attacked each other with stones, bottles and fists, as police and leaders of both rallies struggled to keep the two groups apart.
APPHOTO GFX1497: Map shows Russia military zones and Ukraine.; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm; (26 Feb 2014)
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APPHOTO XDMV104: Crimean Tatars, right clash with police in front of a local government building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. More than 10,000 Muslim Tatars rallied in support of the interim government. That group clashed with a smaller pro-Russian rally nearby. Fistfights broke out between pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine's strategic Crimea region on Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered massive military exercises just across the border. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) (26 Feb 2014)
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