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Ukraine crisis: Crimea votes for independence as US and Russia clash

Published on Mar 11, 2014 11:20 PM
 
A photo taken on Feb 28, 2014 shows unidentified armed men patrolling outside Simferopol airport. Lawmakers on the flashpoint Crimean peninsula voted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, for independence from Ukraine ahead of a referendum on joining Russia while Washington rebuffed talks with Moscow in one of their fiercest clashes since the Cold War. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AFP) - Lawmakers on the flashpoint Crimean peninsula voted on Tuesday for independence from Ukraine ahead of a referendum on joining Russia while Washington rebuffed talks with Moscow in one of their fiercest clashes since the Cold War.

The hold of Kiev's new Western-backed leaders on the separatist region loosened still further when pro-Kremlin gunmen seized the air traffic control tower at Crimea's main international airport and cancelled all flights except for those to and from Moscow.

The latest escalation of Europe's worst crisis in decades came moments after ousted president Viktor Yanukovych defiantly vowed to return to Kiev from Russia and declared he was still the head of the ex-Soviet state.

Crimea has been a tinderbox since Russian forces seized control of the rugged peninsula - home to Moscow's Black Sea Fleet since the 18th century - with the help of Kremlin-backed militias days after Yanukovych fled Ukraine last month in response to waves of deadly unrest.

 
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