Ukraine’s parliament has passed a bill to create a 60,000-strong National Guard to bolster the country’s defenses ahead of Crimea referendum.
The vote came ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, now controlled by pro-Russian forces, on whether citizens want to join Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insists Russia is not to blame for the crisis.
Meanwhile Germany’s Angela Merkel says Moscow faces “massive” political and economic damage if it refuses to change course. The US has also threatened action.
Russia was exploiting the weakness of neighboring Ukraine, rather than acting as a partner for stability, the German chancellor said on Thursday, adding that there was no military solution to the crisis.
The Russian military and pro-Russian armed men moved in to seize key sites in Crimea – an autonomous region of Ukraine whose population is mainly ethnic Russian – in late February after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych.
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