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President Vladimir Putin has put armed forces in western Russia ‘on alert’, amid rising tensions in the pro-Russian Crimea over the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych by pro-European protesters.

In a sign of Moscow’s displeasure at the revolution in Kiev, Mr Putin ordered an urgent drill to test troops’ combat readiness, a move that could further raise the temperature in the region where supporters and opponents of Ukraine’s revolution were today locked in an ugly stand-off.

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, said Moscow was “carefully watching what is happening in Crimea” and that measures were being taken to ensure the security of the facilities and arsenals of its Black Sea naval fleet, which is based in the fiercely pro-Russian Crimean city of Sebastopol.

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