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Ukraine 'bars Russian pilots'

Russia is accusing Ukrainian officials of barring crews of Russian commercial airlines from going outside their aircraft at Ukrainian airports.

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have been rising since Russian forces occupied Crimea and stayed there throughout the referendum last week where votes overwhelmingly supported Russia's annexation of the strategic peninsula.

Russia's foreign ministry said Ukrainian border guards have been barring cabin crews of Aeroflot, the state-controlled Russian airline, from leaving the aircraft.

The ministry said the decision violates international laws and ultimately "poses a threat to the safety of civil aviation" because the crews cannot rest properly.

The ministry said it had sent protest notes twice to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow.

Russian authorities previously complained that Ukrainian border guards had singled out Russian men at the frontier and blocked their crossing, fearing that they might be activists coming to stir up unrest.

Ukrainian soldiers yesterday began their westward journey from Crimea after Ukraine's fledging government ordered the withdrawal of its troops from the Black Sea peninsula.

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