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Clashes in Ukraine as Putin stays defiant

Published on Mar 10, 2014 6:00 AM
Pro-Russian self-defence activists use a bat and a whip to beat a pro-Ukrainian supporter during clashes in Sevastopol on March 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

KIEV (AFP) - Pro-Russian activists with clubs and whips clashed with pro-Kiev supporters on Sunday as tens of thousands rallied across Ukraine in rival protests, and Russian President Vladimir Putin dug in his heels in the stand-off with the West.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a strong rebuke to the Russian strongman, telling him a planned Crimean referendum on joining the Russian Federation was illegal and deploring the lack of progress on creating an international diplomatic group to resolve the crisis.

In phone conversations with Ms Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Putin in turn accused Ukraine's new leaders of failing to rein in "ultra-nationalist and radical forces".

Defying Western condemnation of the March 16 referendum, he asserted the pro-Russian authorities in Crimea organising the vote were legitimate and acting "based on international law".

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