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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are drifting mostly lower in midday trading as tensions build in Ukraine, where the region of Crimea is preparing for a referendum on whether to split away and become part of Russia.
Chonhar (Ukraine) (AFP) - Pro-Kremlin gunmen kept foreign observers from entering Crimea on Friday as Russia welcomed the prospect of the Ukrainian peninsula joining the country amid the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War. Russia's state-run energy giant Gazprom threatened to cut off Ukraine in a move that could affect other parts of Europe from gas shipments in a seeming tit-for-tat response to an EU vow to toughen sanctions against Moscow unless it opened talks with Kiev. The developments underscored the Kremlin's resolve to stand its ground over a flareup that has both endangered European security and tested the West's commitment to uphold the sovereignty and safety of the vast ex-Soviet state. The observer mission from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is a crucial part of the so-called "off-ramp" US President Barack Obama is pushing to de-escalate a crisis that threatens to splinter the nation of 46 million.