Men wearing military fatigues ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on April 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANATOLIY STEPANOV
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Ukrainian government forces and separatist pro-Russian militia staged rival shows of force in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday amid escalating rhetoric on the eve of crucial four-power talks in Geneva on the former Soviet country's future.Government troops drove seven armoured personnel carriers flying the Ukrainian flag into the town of Kramatorsk after securing control of a nearby airfield from the rebels on Tuesday, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to warn of the risk of civil war. But just 15 km (9 miles) away, armed men in different types of combat fatigues drove six armoured personnel carriers, one flying the Russian flag, into the town of Slaviansk, stopping outside the town hall, which is occupied by separatists. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Vietnam before heading to Geneva, said Kiev should listen to what he called the voice of the people of Ukraine and avoid force.The Ukrainian government launched what it called a "special operation" on Tuesday against separatist militia in the Russian-speaking East, although aside from a landing by airborne troops the action was limited and avoided casualties.Russia, which Western governments says has massed about 40,000 troops just across the border with eastern Ukraine, denies the charge. The Kremlin is demanding that Kiev accept a loose federal structure for Ukraine.
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