Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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Slavyansk, Ukraine (CNN) - Violence escalated Friday in southern Ukraine, with pro-Russian separatists reportedly shooting down two Ukrainian helicopters amid deadly clashes.
The deadly fighting came the same day that U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to seek harsher sanctions against Russia if Ukraine doesn't stabilize in time for elections this month.
More than a dozen people were killed and dozens more were wounded in street fighting that pitted pro-Russian separatists against Ukrainian forces and those who support the Kiev government.
(CNN) – Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces tightened their grip on newly-annexed Crimea Thursday by storming another Ukrainian military base.
Here in the U.S., President Barack Obama responded to the land grab with a second set of sanctions aimed at Russian and pro-Russian officials in Crimea, and a bank.
"These sanctions would not only have a significant impact on the Russian economy, but could also be disruptive to the global economy. However, Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community," Obama said Thursday.
Russia immediately retaliated with its own sanctions against nine U.S. officials: House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senators John McCain, Robert Menendez, Mary Landrieu and Dan Coats, and White House advisers Ben Rhodes, Dan Pfeiffer and Caroline Atkinson.
All are now banned from traveling to Russia, which doesn't seem to bother them much.
"I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off," McCain tweeted.
But what is the reality on the ground right now, and will these sanctions change anything on either side? CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports live from Simferopol, Crimea.
Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) - Ukraine's ousted President is a wanted man. He's also a missing man.
Viktor Yanukovych is not in Kiev. The mayor of Kharkiv, where Yanukovych was Saturday, says he hasn't seen him in a few days.
He's also apparently not hiding in a bunker in a Ukrainian Orthodox monastery, a church spokesman said, swatting down the latest speculation.
Are you in Ukraine? Send us your photos and experiences but please stay safe.
Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) - Protesters and government forces maintained a tense standoff Thursday night amid claims of sniper fire on the part of government forces and kidnapping of police by protesters, escalations that threatened to further destabilize the already precarious situation in this highly divided nation.
Earlier, authorities and protesters fought pitched battles in the streets near Independence Square, with protesters tossing rocks and firebombs at police under a sky blackened by smoke from their burning barricades. At least one protester fired toward police lines with a shotgun.
(CNN) – After deadly clashes between security forces and protesters, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych issued a statement Wednesday night declaring "the beginning of negotiations aimed at cessation of bloodshed and stabilization of the situation in the country for the sake of civil peace."
Hearing continued blasts nearby, "it could be fireworks, it could be a number of things, it certainly isn't a truce," CNN's Nick Paton Walsh says. Check out his report from Kiev in the video above.