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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of billboards throughout the capital of the restive Ukrainian republic of Crimea proclaim "Together With Russia," but a few have been hit by spray-painters who scrawled out "Russia" and replaced it with "Ukraine."
Ukraine braced on Saturday for a breakaway vote in Crimea as deadly violence returned to the ex-Soviet state's tinderbox Russian-speaking regions amid the biggest East-West showdown since the Cold War. The second successive day of bloodshed that has now claimed three lives in the heavily Russified southeast came hours after Moscow -- its forces already in control of Crimea and conducting snap drills on Ukraine's doorstep -- warned that it reserved the right to "protect" compatriots throughout its neighbour. Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov gravely told a session of parliament on Saturday that the latest violence meant "there is now a real danger of a (Russian) invasion on the territory of Ukraine". Yet the more immediate threat facing the vast nation of 46 million people that now finds itself at the heart of a tug of war between the Kremlin and Western powers is the possibility it may soon lose a region that is home to most of its naval fleet.