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Merkel raps Putin as Russian forces tighten grip on Crimea

Published on Mar 10, 2014 12:47 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel look at each other while answering journalists' questions during a joint news conference in Moscow's Kremlin on Nov 16, 2012. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS 

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (REUTERS) - Germany's Angela Merkel delivered a rebuke to President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, telling him that a planned Moscow-backed referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal and violated Ukraine's constitution.

Putin defended breakaway moves by pro-Russian leaders in Crimea, where Russian forces tightened their grip on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula by seizing another border post and a military airfield.

As thousands staged rival rallies in Crimea, street violence flared in Sevastopol, when pro-Russian activists and Cossacks attacked a group of Ukrainians.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all parties to remain calm and urged a political solution to the crisis, during telephone calls with US President Barack Obama and Merkel.

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