An armed man in military fatigues stands guard outside the security service (SBU) regional building seized by the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 23, 2014. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV
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Russia issued a blunt warning Wednesday it would respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine, as pro-Kremlin rebels in the restive east of the country braced for a new military offensive by Kiev.The threat by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, recalling the 2008 war with Georgia over South Ossetia, came as US troops were headed to region in a show of force after Washington again warned Moscow of new sanctions over the escalating crisis.Those messages were underlined on a visit to Kiev on Tuesday by US Vice President Joe Biden, who also stressed US support for Ukraine's new leaders -- in power since the ouster in February of the pro-Kremlin president.Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine's eastern border, while the United States was sending 600 soldiers to NATO member countries near Ukraine to boost defences in eastern Europe.Russia has dismissed the threat of new sanctions and insists that it has the right to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.
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