Armed members of the first unit of a pro-Russian armed force, dubbed the "military forces of the autonomous republic of Crimea" cheer during the swearing-in ceremony in Simferopol, Ukraine, Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
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Dozens of military trucks transporting heavily armed soldiers rumbled over Crimea's rutted roads Saturday as Russia reinforced its armed presence on the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea.The Russians have denied their armed forces are active in Crimea, but an Associated Press reporter trailed one military convoy Saturday afternoon from 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Feodosia to a military airfield at Gvardeiskoe north of Simferopol, over which a Russian flag flew. The strategic peninsula in southern Ukraine has become the flashpoint in the battle for Ukraine, where three months of protests sent President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing to Russia. A majority of people in Crimea identify with Russia, and Moscow's Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol, as is Ukraine's. "The Russians are thinking," Deshchytsi said, so there is "reason to hope". He reiterated that the new Ukrainian government understands it is vital to need to establish good relations with all neighbors, including Russia. In the week since Russia seized control of Crimea, Russian troops have been neutralizing and disarming Ukrainian military bases here.Onishchenko said the troops who tried to overrun his base were clearly Russian.
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