President Obama said he was “deeply” concerned by reports that Russia deployed forces into the Crimea region of Ukraine, and warned “there will be costs” for any military action in the ongoing crisis.
“Any violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing,” said Obama to reporters on Friday. “It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people.”
The president did not specify what the costs would be, but noted that the United States would continue to communicate with the Russian government. He said he had spoken with President Vladimir Putin days ago, and made clear that Russia could be part of the international community’s effort to support the success of a united Ukraine.
“Throughout this crisis we have been very clear,” said Obama. “The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future.”
Shortly before the president’s remarks, U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News that uniformed Russian forces – a hybrid of military and paramilitary – were still flying into Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea in southern Ukraine. The country, once a Soviet satellite, has been gripped by anti-government protests since last November that turned violent in recent weeks. Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia, where he declared on Friday that he was “not overthrown,” but compelled to leave the country due to threats on his life.