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US urges Russia to talk to Ukraine on Crimea base standoff

Russian soldiers walk inside the Ukrainian navy south headquarters base in Novoozerne after seizing control of it on March 19, 2014
Russian soldiers walk inside the Ukrainian navy south headquarters base in Novoozerne after seizing control of it on March 19, 2014

The United States on Wednesday called on Russia to open a dialogue with Ukraine on a military base standoff in Crimea and said Moscow was responsible for any casualties inflicted by its own or allied forces.

"The continuing efforts by Russian forces to seize Ukrainian military installations are creating a dangerous situation," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

"We condemn these actions. Russia should immediately begin discussions with the Ukrainian government to ensure the safety of Ukrainian forces in the Crimean region of Ukraine."

The White House comments followed the seizure of Ukraine's naval headquarters in Crimea by pro-Russian forces and the capture of the Ukrainian naval commander in the region.

Dozens of despondent Ukrainian soldiers filed out of the base in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol after its storming by hundreds of pro-Kremlin protesters and Russian troops.

Carney said those forces bore direct responsibility for the safety of Ukrainians.

"The Russian military is directly responsible for any casualties that its forces, whether they be regular uniformed troops or irregulars without insignias, inflict on Ukrainian military members in Crimea," Carney said.

"Reports that a Ukrainian military officer was killed yesterday are particularly concerning and belie President Putin's claim that Russia's military intervention in Crimea has brought security to that part of Ukraine."

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