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Ukraine Says Conflict With Russia Turned Military From Political

Russian Forces in Ukraine
Armed Russian forces arrest Ukrainian army officers during an operation in Simferopol on March 18, 2014. Photographer: Alisa Borovikova/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine’s government said its conflict with Russia has entered a military phase as clashes in the breakaway Crimea region intensified, killing at least one Ukrainian serviceman.

The country is seeking to set up a commission including the defense ministers of Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. to avert further escalation, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told reporters in Kiev. A soldier was killed when unidentified masked gunmen stormed a military installation in Crimea, Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry in the region, said by phone.

Tensions are increasing after Russian President Vladimir Putin flouted Western sanctions and signed a treaty annexing Crimea into the Russian Federation. The Black Sea peninsula in a disputed March 16 referendum voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

Russia has 25,000 troops in Crimea, which are blocking 38 Ukrainian units in the region, Serhiy Hayduk, the head of the Ukrainian Navy, said via video link. Hayduk will speak with a Russian deputy defense minister to avert escalation, he said.

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