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As Ukraine prepares for its first presidential election since the Orange Revolution, there are signs that its giant neighbour to the east will not tolerate a pro-western outcome. Luke Harding reports from Yalta.
From the terrace there are views of the Crimean peninsula, with fir trees, dark green cypresses and a shimmering bay. Inside – through a pleasant Italian courtyard – is the room where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt sat together around a wooden table and divided up postwar Europe.
But almost 65 years after the "big three" met in the Crimean seaside resort of Yalta – now in Ukraine – the question of zones of influence has come back to haunt Europe. Russia has made it clear that it sees Ukraine as crucial to its bold claim that it is entitled to a zone of influence in its post-Soviet backyard.
Last month, a group of east European leaders and intellectuals gathered in the Livadia Palace, where Britain, the US and the Soviet Union held the Yalta conference in February 1945. The idea was to discuss Ukraine's strategic future. But the discussion was overshadowed by one question: will there be a war between Russia and Ukraine?
"A lot of people in this part of the world are seriously #ting themselves," one analyst in Yalta admitted bluntly. "We don't know what Obama's deal [with Moscow] was. They think that Russia will take it as a green light," he added.
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine sent hundreds of troops, five ships and 15 aircraft into the Black Sea region Thursday for day-long military drills off its Crimean peninsula, a potential flashpoint with Russia.
The exercises commenced just as a Russian state news agency said Russian drills in the same body of water were coming to a close.