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Ukraine

Ukraine prods Russia by barring pilots, crew

Moscow has complained that Russian flight crews have been barred by Ukrainian border patrols from deplaning in Kyiv. Tensions remain high between the countries as world leaders meet in Brussels.

Moscow has complained twice to the Ukrainian embassy in Russia over instances of Russian flight crews that have been blocked by border authorities in Kyiv from exiting their planes, the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Pilots and crew from flights of the Russian carrier Aeroflot, according to the airline's report to the ministry, have not been allowed to exit the plane after landing in Kyiv. This would be in violation of flight safety regulations regarding rest periods for flight crews.

"Russia insists on an unconditional cessation of these irresponsible practices by Ukraine which endanger the safety of civil aviation flights," the ministry said in a statement.

Russian flags in Crimea

Meanwhile, Russia's military chief of staff, General Valery Gerasimov, said on Wednesday that Russia has taken complete control of all military bases in Crimea.

"The flags of the Russian Federation have been raised at all 193 military installations in Crimea," he said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

Ukrainian soldiers previously stationed at the bases in Crimea were being given the opportunity to freely leave Crimea via train and return to Ukraine, Gerasimov added.

Russia seized control of the peninsula from Ukraine this month, and has increased its troop presence on its western border with Ukraine.

Ukraine seeks US military cooperation

On Wednesday, the AFP news agency reported that Ukraine has formally requested joint military drills to be carried out over the summer with military teams from the United States. Exercises are also being planned with other NATO members, including Poland, Moldova and Romania.

US President Barack Obama is in Brussels Wednesday for a meeting with NATO and European Union leaders.

Speaking on Tuesday in Amsterdam, Obama said Russia was a "regional power" that was acting "not out of strength, but out of weakness."

mz/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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