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    Tension Mounts Between Ukraine's Pro-Russia, Pro-West Protesters

    Pro-Russia demonstrators and those supporting Ukraine's new pro-Western interim leaders confronted each other in the southern city of Simferopol on Wednesday.

    Small-scale clashes broke out between the shouting protesters, some of whom were bloodied in the incident, which happened in the courtyard of an administrative building in the Crimean capital.

    The Crimean peninsula is mainly made up of Russian speakers who support Moscow, though it also includes a minority Tatar group that tends to take an anti-Russia stance.

    There are concerns the nation of 46 million people could face an East-West divide after weeks of widespread protests prompted the ouster of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said the country should not be forced to choose between Moscow, its former Soviet master, and Washington.



    "This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East, it should not be. It is not a Russia or the United States or other choices, this is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future and we want to work with Russia, with other countries, with everybody available, to make sure this is peaceful from this day forward because obviously, the terrible violence that took place in the Maidan was a shock to everybody in the world."



    Anti-government demonstrations erupted in Ukraine after Mr. Yanukovych rejected an European Union trade deal in favor of economic assistance from Russia. The violence escalated last week with dozens of people killed.

    On Wednesday, Ukraine's interim leaders dissolved an elite security force accused of carrying out deadly attacks on protesters during the demonstrations.

    In a statement on his Facebook page, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said he signed a decree disbanding the feared Berkut riot police



    Meanwhile, interim President Oleksandr Turchynov warned Tuesday in parliament that there are "very dangerous signs of separatism" in several parts of the country.

    It is also unclear how Russia will react to the ouster of its ally. Moscow on Tuesday insisted it will not interfere in Ukrainian politics. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it is "dangerous and counterproductive" to force the country into a choice between Russia and Europe.

    Mr. Turchynov plans on Thursday to announce a new national unity government.

    The move comes EU and U.S. leaders meet with Ukrainian leaders to work on ways that Western financial institutions can help Ukraine, which many say is on the verge of economic collapse.

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    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
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