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Russian Troops Mass at Border in Ukraine Rift

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MOSCOW — With a referendum on secession looming in Crimea, Russia massed troops and armored vehicles in at least three regions along Ukraine’s eastern border on Thursday, alarming the interim Ukraine government about a possible invasion and significantly escalating tensions in the crisis between the Kremlin and the West.

The announcement of the troop buildup by Russia’s Defense Ministry was met with an unusually sharp rebuke from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who warned that the Russian government must abandon what she called the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries or face diplomatic and economic retaliation from a united Europe.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if Russia continues on its course of the past weeks, it will not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine,” she said in a speech to the German Parliament.

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