Standoff in Ukraine intensifies
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.
Police cut off all traffic to the center of the capital, blocking even diplomatic vehicles–a highly unusual move, according to a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, who spoke with NBC News’ Ayman Mohyeldin.
U.S. officials condemned the violence Tuesday and called on government officials to resume talks with the opposition.
“Force will not resolve the crisis,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his press briefing. “To restore peace and stability, we urge President Yanukovych to de-escalate immediately the situation and end the confrontation.”
Secretary of State John Kerry added in a statement: “We condemn the use of force or violence by any party. We call on the government and protesters to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and to resolve political differences through high-level dialogue. Rather than issuing ultimatums, the Government of Ukraine should immediately resume talks with senior opposition leaders and support dialogue through Ukraine’s democratic institutions, including parliament, the Rada.”
The standoff began in November, when Yanukovych bucked a trade deal with the European Union, turning instead to one with Russia. Unrest continued to grow after an anti-protest law went into effect. More than 2,000 people have been injured so far during the clashes, CNN reports.