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Ukraine on 'full combat alert': Kiev

MOSCOW/KIEV--Ukraine's armed forces are on “full combat alert” against a possible Russian invasion, Kiev said Wednesday, as pro-Kremlin insurgents tightened their grip on the increasingly chaotic east of the country.

Rebels stormed the regional police building and town hall in the eastern Ukrainian city of Gorlivka, local officials told AFP, adding to more than a dozen locations already under their control.

The new seizure followed clashes in nearby Lugansk late Tuesday, as hundreds of pro-Russia protesters spearheaded by a heavily armed mob attacked the police station.

On Wednesday, the rebels lifted their siege of the building after the police chief promised to step down.

Ukraine's interim president Oleksandr Turchynov told his cabinet the nation's armed forces were on “full combat alert” as fears grew in Kiev that Russia could mount an armed invasion of the ex-Soviet republic.

“The threat of Russia starting a war against mainland Ukraine is real,” he said.

Turchynov urged “Ukrainian patriots” to bolster the beleaguered police force, which he has criticized for “inaction and in some cases treachery.” His priority was to prevent “terrorism” spreading in the restive east of the country, he said.

Police are “helpless” and “some of them even help and cooperate with the separatists,” he charged.

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