Armed pro-Russian activists occupy the police station carrying riot shields in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk on Saturday, April 12, 2014.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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Armed pro-Russian militants raised the Russian flag in an eastern Ukrainian city on Saturday, deepening a stand-off with Moscow which, Kiev warned, was dragging Europe closer to a "gas war" that could disrupt supplies across the continent.At least 20 men armed with pistols and rifles took over the police and security services headquarters in Slaviansk, about 150 km (90 miles) from the border with Russia. Russia denies any plan to send in forces or split Ukraine, but the Western-leaning authorities in Kiev believe Russia is trying to create a pretext to interfere again. NATO says Russia's armed forces are massing on Ukraine's eastern border, while Moscow says they are on normal manoeuvres. A large proportion of the natural gas which EU states buy from Russia is pumped via Ukrainian territory, so if Russia makes good on a threat to cut off Ukraine for non-payment of its bills, customers further west will have supplies disrupted.That raised the spectre of a repeat of past "gas wars", when Ukraine's gas was cut off, with a knock-on effect on supplies to EU states.Moscow says it does not want to turn off Ukraine's gas if it can be avoided, and that it will honour all commitments to supply its EU customers.
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