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Cossacks guard the regional parliament building during the Crimean referendum AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
march 21

Ukraine and Russia agree a 'temporary' Crimea truce

Citizens in Crimea are voting in a referendum today on whether the region should break away from Ukraine.

UKRAINE’S DEFENCE MINISTER said today his forces in Crimea had reached a temporary truce with Russia aimed at easing tensions surrounding the Black Sea peninsula’s high-stakes secession referendum.

Russian troops seized the Ukrainian region at the start of the month with the help of pro-Kremlin militias in response of last month’s fall in Kiev of a Moscow-backed regime.

Russian forces

The Russian forces have encircled Ukraine’s military bases in Crimea and kept its naval ships from going out to sea.

But Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh told a government meeting in Kiev that a temporary agreement had been reached that would help the encircled Ukrainian soldiers replenish their supplies.

“Agreements have already been reached between our commanders… on there being no attempts to blockade our military installations until March 21,” Interfax news agency quoted Tenyukh as saying.

We have reached this truce, and I think it will remain in place until March 21.

Tenyukh said that Ukraine’s troops in Crimea remained on full combat alert but that the situation on the ground was calm.

“For now, the situation concerning our military installations… has normalised,” the defence minister said.

President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation today that he was concerned over tensions in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also called for foreign observers from the OSCE to be sent “urgently” to the east and south of the country as Crimea threatened to secede and join Russia.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Will Crimea break away from Ukraine for Russia? The people decide today>

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