Crimean Tatars clash with a police officer , left, in front of a local government building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (AP PhotoAndrew Lubimov)
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The U.S. warned Russia Wednesday it would be a "grave mistake" to intervene militarily in Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin put 150,000 combat troops on high alert for war games near the turmoil-ridden country.The U.S. is also mulling providing a $1 billion loan guarantee to help Ukraine stave off economic collapse, Kerry added.The comments came as Russia's second-largest bank, VTB, joined Sberbank in saying it would halt new lending in Ukraine, underlining concerns over financial risks due to political turmoil.With the political turmoil hammering Ukraine's economy, the central bank said it would no longer intervene to shield the hryvnia currency, which tumbled 4 percent and is now down a fifth since Jan. 1 .Russia has repeatedly expressed concern for the safety of Russian citizens in Ukraine, using language similar to statements that preceded its invasion of Georgia in 2008 .Any military action in Ukraine would be far more serious – the closest the West and Russia have come to outright confrontation since the Cold War.Ukraine's new authorities say they are worried about separatism in Crimea, the only part of Ukraine where the majority is ethnic Russian.
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