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Ukraine seeks joint US war games after Crimea takeover

AFP , Wednesday 26 Mar 2014
Soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers fortify a military check point by a camp on a field the Ukrainian Army forces set up close to the Russian border in east Ukraine March 21, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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Ukraine's acting president asked parliamentary approval on Wednesday for a set of military exercises with NATO partners that would put US troops in direct proximity with Russia's forces in the annexed Crimea peninsula.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov's request came as the chief of Russia's general staff announced in Moscow that his forces were now in full control of all 193 military bases Ukraine had in the Black Sea region prior to its seizure by Kremlin forces at the start of the month.

Turchynov said Ukraine would like to conduct two sets of military exercises with the United Sates this summer -- Rapid Trident and Sea Breeze -- that have prompted disquiet in Russia in previous years.

Ukraine is planning two additional manuevers with NATO member Poland as well joint ground operations with Moldova and Romania.

US President Barack Obama's administration this month proposed a 28-percent spending cut to a Pentagon initiative that supports modernising the armed forces of Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states.

But a Pentagon spokeswoman said that both Rapid Trident and Sea Breeze were still expected to proceed on schedule in the coming months.

The Sea Breeze exercises have especially irritated Moscow because they had on occasion been staged on Crimea -- the base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

Those manuevers have in more recent years been moved to the Black Sea port of Odessa where Ukraine also has a naval base.

The Kremlin's forces on Tuesday stormed the last Ukrainian ship in Crimea and are now in complete military control of the Belgium-sized cape of two million mostly Russian speakers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 1 sought and won authority to use force against his neighbour after three months of deadly protests in Kiev brought down a pro-Kremlin regime and replaced it with new leaders seeking closer ties with the West.

The resulting security crisis has set off the worst diplomatic standoff since the Cold War era and prompted the European Union to conduct urgent consultations aimed at weening itself off its dependence on Russian natural gas.

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