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Ukraine tells UN that 16,000 Russian troops in Crimea

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ukraine’s mission to the United Nations is claiming that 16,000 Russian troops have been deployed in the strategic Crimea region, while Russia’s U.N. ambassador told the council Monday that Ukraine’s fugitive president requested troops.

A letter from Ukraine’s U.N. mission circulated during Monday’s emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council pleads for international help.

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Russia’s U.N. ambassador told the council that Ukraine’s fugitive president requested Russia’s armed forces to establish law and order in the former Soviet country. But Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador, told an urgent meeting of the Security Council: ‘‘One might think that Moscow has just become the rapid response arm of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.’’

Fugitive Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia after his ouster and had said Friday that he would not ask for Russian forces.

The third emergency Security Council meeting in four days came as the West scrambles to respond to Russia’s tightening grip on the strategic Crimea region amid fears that the Kremlin might carry out more land grabs in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine.

Action by the U.N.’s most powerful body appears unlikely. Russia has veto power as a permanent member and can block the council from adopting any resolution criticizing or sanctioning Moscow.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council he was authorized to read a statement from Yanukovych — and show council members a copy — which says that ‘‘as the legitimately elected representative’’ he believes ‘‘Ukraine is on the brink of civil war.’’

The statement asks President Vladimir Putin to use Russia’s armed forces ‘‘to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine.’’

Churkin quoted Yanukovych as saying ‘‘the life and security and the rights of people, particularly in the southeast part in Crimea, are being threatened’’ and that there were ‘‘open acts of terror and violence.’’

Power said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will begin sending monitors to Ukraine on Monday night.

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