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CONFLICT OVER CONTROL OF CRIMEA ESCALATES

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The conflict over the Ukrainian province of Crimea escalated Monday as Ukrainian and Crimean politicians accused each other of stepping up security measures on the peninsula even as officials met in Moscow to try to defuse the tense dispute.

Ukraine sent armored vehicles to the Crimean capital of Simferopol, where the Crimean militia fortified key facilities against any move by federal troops to take control of the Black Sea peninsula."We know that organs of the Crimean Interior Ministry have been issued automatic weapons," said Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesman Ivan Levchenko.

Crimean Interior Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Semko confirmed the deployment of the province's special Berkut militia to secure the central bank, the broadcast center and legislative quarters where the dispute began when lawmakers ushered in constitutional changes that redefined Crimea's relations with Kiev and set the province on a course to independence.

"I wouldn't call this a crisis yet, there's just the threat of crisis," Semko said.