For the past few weeks, armed groups of pro-Russian men have been storming and seizing government buildings in towns across eastern Ukraine. Angered by the new pro-western Ukrainian government and emboldened by Russia's annexation of Crimea, these groups are demanding separation from Ukraine. Ukraine's new government has asked for western assistance, as it tries to recapture police stations airbases and other government properties -- without resorting to violence which may trigger a Russian response. Russian president Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine's new authorities of driving the country towards the abyss but said that dialogue was the only way out of the intensifying crisis. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are deploying in eastern Ukraine, with even more Russian soldiers massed on the other side of the border. NATO officials said they planned to deploy more forces in eastern Europe and called for Russia to stop "destabilizing" the former Soviet satellite, which has been in deep turmoil since the ouster of the pro-Kremlin leadership in February. [36 photos total]

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An armed pro-Russian man stands outside the seized mayor's office in Slaviansk, Ukraine, on April 14, 2014. Towns in eastern Ukraine on Monday braced for military action from government forces as a deadline passed for pro-Russian separatists to disarm and end their occupation of state buildings or face a major "anti-terrorist" operation. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #
A woman walks along a railway crossing near Ukrainian tanks on freight cars before their departure from Crimea -- now annexed by Russia -- to other regions of Ukraine in the settlement of Gvardeiskoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 31, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Pro-Russian protesters, some holding Russian national flags, storm a regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on April 6, 2014. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images) #
Pro-Russian protesters scuffle with a policeman near a regional government building in Donetsk April 6, 2014. Around 100 pro-Russian protesters stormed the and hung up a Russian flag in defiance of Kiev's pro-European government. (Reuters/Mikhail Maslovsky) #
Armed pro-Russian activists walk through a street near the seized Ukrainian regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk on April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) #
A pro-Russian protester breaks a window as others storm a regional government building in Donetsk on April 6, 2014. (Reuters/Mikhail Maslovsky) #
Pro-Russian supporters wave a Russian flag as they storm a regional administration building in Donetsk on April 6, 2014. About 50 protesters chanting "Donetsk is a Russian city!" broke through police lines on and stormed inside the main administration building of the eastern Ukrainian city. The activists moved away from a crowd of about 2,000 rallying on the main city square and threw firecrackers at police surrounding the government seat before raising the Russian flag above the 11-storey building. (Alexander Khudoteply/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Ukrainian police officer receives medical care after being attacked by a pro-Russian mob that stormed a police station in Horlivka, eastern Ukraine, on April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
Masked pro-Russian men stand guard inside the mayor's office in Donetsk on April 16, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Masked pro-Russian men attack British photojournalist Frederick Paxton during the mass storming of a police station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Horlivka on April 14, 2014. Several government buildings have fallen to mobs of Moscow loyalists in recent days as unrest spreads across the east of the country. Western journalists have routinely been targeted by intimidation by crowds during attacks. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
A pro-Russian activist dressed as a knight guards the barricade at the regional administration building that was seized earlier in Donetsk on April 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
A barricade is set up in front of the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on April 10, 2014. Pro-Russian separatists reinforced barricades and called on President Vladimir Putin for help after the government warned it could use force to restore order. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
A Ukrainian fighter plane flies above the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk on April 17, 2014. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images) #
Ukrainian General Genady Krutov talks to journalists in front of a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 15, 2014. Ukrainian armed forces launched a "special operation" against militia men in the country's Russian speaking east, authorities said, recapturing a military airfield from pro-Moscow separatists. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
Pro-Russia protesters rough up Ukrainian General, Genady Krutov (center right), who had been speaking in front of a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk on April 15, 2014. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
A column of combat vehicles with a Russian flag makes its way to the town of Kramatorsk on April 16, 2014. An Associated Press reporter said he saw the column of combat vehicles, occupied by pro-Russian insurgents and flying Russian flags. (AP Photo/ Evgeniy Maloletka) #
Pro-Russia supporters beat a pro-Western activist who lies on the stairs during a pro Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 13, 2014. Two rival rallies in Kharkiv turned violent after a group of pro-Russian protesters followed several pro-Ukrainian activists, beating them with baseball bats and sticks. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko) #
Interior Ministry members stand near men, who were injured in clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian supporters during rallies in Kharkiv on April 13, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Ukrainian helicopters take off after delivering troops to an airbase in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, on April 15, 2014. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
A Ukrainian soldier holds a hand grenade as Ukrainian army troops receive ammunition in a field on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine, on April 15, 2014. An Associated Press reporter saw at least 14 armored personnel carriers with Ukrainian flags, one helicopter and military trucks parked 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of the city. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #
A fighter jet flies above as Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored personnel carrier in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 16, 2014. Ukrainian government forces and separatist pro-Russian militia staged rival shows of force in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday amid escalating rhetoric on the eve of crucial four-power talks in Geneva on the former Soviet country's future. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
A Ukrainian soldier clashes with a pro-Russia protester in a field near Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 16, 2014. Ukrainian forces tightened their grip on the eastern town of Kramatorsk on Wednesday after securing control over an airfield from pro-Russian separatist militiamen, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to warn of the risk of civil war. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
Ukrainian soldiers standing on a combat vehicle try to negotiate with pro-Russian protesters in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 16, 2014. Fifteen armored troop carriers full of paratroopers were surrounded and halted by a pro-Russian crowd at a town near an airbase. They were allowed to retreat only after the soldiers handed the firing pins from their rifles to a rebel commander. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
Women pray for peace near a regional administration building that was seized by armed pro-Russian activists in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, on April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka) #
Communist lawmakers scuffle with right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) Party lawmakers during a parliament session of Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Vladimir Strumkovsky) #
A Ukrainian soldier aims his weapon at pro-Russia protesters gathered in front of a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk, on April 15, 2014. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
A female member of a "Maidan" self-defence unit stands guard in front of the Ukrainian parliament building in Kiev on April 15, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #
A minivan burns at the gates to a National Guard base in Mariupol, early Thursday, April 17, 2014. Three pro-Russian militants died and 13 were wounded when Ukrainian troops repelled an attack on the National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, Ukraine's interior minister said Thursday. (AP Photo/ Nikolai Ryabchenko) #
People surround a man who was injured during pro-Russian protests near a Ukrainian military base in Mariupol on April 16, 2014. Ukraine's interior minister said on Thursday that three pro-Russian separatists were killed in shooting that broke out overnight in the town of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. "According to preliminary data, three attackers were killed, 13 wounded and 63 detained," Arsen Avakov said in a post on Facebook. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Sergei Shevchenko, a pro-Russian protester wounded in the storming of a Ukrainian National Guard base, speaks in a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 17, 2014. "We just threw Molotov cocktails to light the way," said Shevchenko, a 40-year-old businessman from the regional capital, Donetsk. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #
A mobile phone showing footage of an unidentified gunman killed in a firefight outside the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk on April 13, 2014. Authorities dispatched troops to the town in an effort to quell unrest across the east, where pro-Moscow protesters have seized a number of government buildings over the past week. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
An elderly woman holds a Russian flag outside the secret service building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk on April 16, 2014. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images) #
A photo taken on April 8, 2014 shows a view of the interior of the Kharkiv regional state administration chancery after being destroyed by pro-Russian protesters. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images) #
A pro-Russian armed man sits near the seized police headquarters in Slaviansk on April 13, 2014. Ukraine's Interior Minister on Sunday told residents in the eastern city of Slaviansk to stay indoors, in anticipation of clashes between pro-Russian militants who have seized official buildings and Ukrainian security forces. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media after a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow, Russia, on April 17, 2014. President Putin rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) #
A Ukrainian soldier embraces a pro-Russian friend as they are blocked by people on their way to the town of Kramatorsk on April 16, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents commandeered six Ukrainian armored vehicles along with their crews and hoisted Russian flags over them Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo) #

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