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Ukraine: Russian forces make foray outside Crimea as referendum looms

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Thousands of police armed with stun grenades and water cannons attacked the large opposition camp in Ukraine's capital that has been the center of nearly three months of anti-government protests on Tuesday, after at least nine people were killed in street clashes.  (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Thousands of police armed with stun grenades and water cannons attacked the large opposition camp in Ukraine's capital that has been the center of nearly three months of anti-government protests on Tuesday, after at least nine people were killed in street clashes. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
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Updated: 3/15 5:26 pm
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukrainian officials say Russian troops backed by helicopter gunships and armored vehicles have taken control of a village near the border with Crimea.

The action in Strilkove appears to be the first move outside Crimea, where Russian forces have been in effective control since late last month. There were no reports of gunfire or injuries, but the incident is raising tensions on the eve of a referendum on whether Crime should split from Ukraine and seek to join Russia.

In a statement, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denounced the foray outside Crimea, and said Ukraine "reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia."

Ukraine's new government and the West have denounced Sunday's referendum as illegitimate, and the West is threatening to impose sanctions against Russia if it incorporates Crimea. However, residents in Crimea are expected to vote in favor of a split.
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