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Top Russian lawmaker says Russia will protect its compatriots in Ukraine if they attacked

A senior Russian lawmaker on a trip to Ukraine's Crimea says that Russia will protect its compatriots there if their lives are in danger.

Tuesday's statement by Leonid Slutsky, who heads a committee in charge of relations with other ex-Soviet republics in the Russian parliament, reflected tensions in the Crimea, a mostly Russian-speaking Black Sea peninsula that hosts a major Russian naval base.

Slutsky, speaking at a meeting with local activists, didn't spell out what action Russia might take.

His statement followed comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said that Moscow has no intention of interfering in Ukraine's domestic affairs and warned the West against trying to turn the situation there to its advantage. Lavrov also criticized the new authorities who replaced Russia-backed fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych.