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Rival rallies clash across Ukraine as Crimea tensions continue to rise

KIEV -- Pro-Russian activists attacked a pro-Kiev rally in Crimea with clubs and whips on Sunday as thousands took to the streets across Ukraine in rival demonstrations, escalating separatist tensions in the troubled ex-Soviet state.

Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed Ukraine would not cede “an inch” of its territory to Moscow after Russian forces and pro-Kremlin gunmen took over the Black Sea peninsula.

“This is our land,” Yatsenyuk told a crowd of several thousand in the capital that was also attended by Russian former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia and is a top critic of President Vladimir Putin.

The standoff in Crimea has set Europe and the United States against Russia over Ukraine's future in the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

Illustrating the divisions in Ukraine, interim president Oleksandr Turchynov led a minute of silence at the Kiev rally for demonstrators killed in three months of protests that led to the ouster of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych.

In contrast, in the eastern city of Donetsk pro-Moscow activists paid tribute to a feared riot police unit accused of shooting at protesters in clashes in Kiev that left around 100 dead late last month.

“Russia! Russia!” the activists waving Russian flags shouted in Donetsk, the heartland of the former president, who fled to Russia after his overthrow.

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