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Two killed in Crimea as crisis hits 'military stage'

Published on Mar 19, 2014 6:05 AM
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2nd right), Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov (left), Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (2nd left) and Alexei Chaly, Sevastopol's new de facto mayor (right), join hands after signing a treaty on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula becoming part of Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AFP) - Ukraine warned on Tuesday its conflict with Russia had entered a "military stage" and authorised its troops to shoot in self-defence after both sides suffered their first casualites since pro-Kremlin forces seized Crimea nearly three weeks ago.

The dramatic escalation to the raging security crisis on the EU's eastern frontier came hours after President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty claiming Crimea as Russian territory after the Black Sea region overwhelmingly voted in favour of switching from Ukrainian to Kremlin rule.

Ukraine's Western-backed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told an urgent government meeting in Kiev that his ex-Soviet country's conflict with its giant nuclear-armed neighbour was threatening to spiral out of control.

"The conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage," Mr Yatsenyuk said in remarks broadcast live across the culturally splintered nation of 46 million people.

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