- (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
- (Photo: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili)
- (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)
President Barack Obama on Friday issued a stern warning to Russia, saying any military intervention in Ukraine will be "deeply destabilizing" and involve "costs," after reports of Moscow's military movement inside the troubled former Soviet nation.
"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside Ukraine," Obama said at the White House Friday. "It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws."
Obama's warning came hours after Ukraine accused Russia of a "military invasion and occupation," according to The Associated Press.
"Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia or Europe," Obama added.
Two airports in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula were reportedly taken over by unidentified armed men Friday morning, followed by a landing of eight Russian cargo planes, Il-76, in the area, according to Ukraine's border service spokesman Serhiy Astakhov.
Additionally, over two dozens of Russian marines from Russia's Black Sea Fleet took position outside the area's Ukrainian coast guard base. Further, a convoy of Russian armored personnel carriers was also seen on the road between Sevastopol and Simferopol.
"The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," Obama said, adding that Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Friday. "Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world," Obama said.
Calling Moscow's military movement "provocations," Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back military forces.
Ukraine's ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the nation over the weekend, addressed media in Russia on Friday, saying he would continue to fight for the "future of Ukraine." But he also said any military action would be "unacceptable."
Yanukovych was removed by Ukraine's parliament last week after 82 people were killed in three months of anti-government protests that began following Yanukovych administration's suspension of preparations for signing an Association Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, in favor of closer economic relations with Russia.
A Swiss prosecutor is investigating Yanukovych and his son, Oleksander, for money laundering, according to Reuters. Switzerland is expected to freeze bank accounts linked to Yanukovych.
A senior U.S. official anonymously spoke to NPR Friday about possible actions against Russia. "It is hard to see how we and other European leaders would attend the G-8 in Sochi if Russia were in Ukraine," the source was quoted as saying of the meetings scheduled for June. "So, we are evaluating the G-8."
The official said plans to deepen trade and commerce ties with Russia could also be put off.
"Any improvement in reputation they got from the Olympics will certainly go away, and we've already seen the ruble falling in value," the source added. "On what's actually taking place in Russia, we are certainly seeing things inside Crimea that lead us to believe Russians are intervening. The president would not have been out there today if we weren't very concerned by what we're seeing."