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Russian troops are involved in "direct military operations" inside Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday. "Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine," he said in a statement. "This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilize Ukraine as a sovereign nation."
Also on Friday, Ukraine said it would work towards becoming part of the U.S.-led security alliance, a move that looked set to inflame tensions with Russia. Prime Minister Minister Arseny Yatseniuk also said that his country still sought to become a member of the European Union. The toppling of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich by protesters calling for closer ties with the West earlier this year helped precipitate the current crisis, with separatist forces besieging much of the east of the country and the Crimean peninsula being annexed by Russia. Ukraine has accused Russia of bringing tanks, artillery and troops to support separatists in eastern Ukraine, which Moscow denies.
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Reuters contributed to this report.