Obama Rattles Ukraine Saber
WASHINGTON (AP) – Delivering a blunt warning to Moscow, President Barack Obama expressed deep concern Friday over reported military activity inside Ukraine by Russia and warned “there will be costs” for any intervention.
He did not say what those costs might be.
“Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing,” Obama said in a statement delivered from the White House. Such action by Russia would not serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, Russia or Europe, Obama said, and would represent a “profound interference” in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.
“Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world,” Obama said. “The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
As Obama prepared to speak, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Crimea, a pro-Russian region of southern Ukraine. Serhiy Astakhov told the Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly Friday and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base, north of the regional capital, Simferopol.
Astakhov said the people in the planes refused to identify themselves and waved off customs officials.
Obama noted that Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, including cultural and economic ties and a Russian military facility in Crimea.
In recent conversations between U.S. and Russian officials, including a lengthy telephone conversation between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin just last week, Obama said the U.S. has made clear to the Russians that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of Ukraine.
But, he said Friday, “we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.”
Earlier Friday, as pro-Russia gunmen patrolled Crimean streets in armored vehicles and took over airports there, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow against military moves in Crimea that could further inflame tensions.
Kerry and White House spokesman Jay Carney both said any Russian military intervention would be a grave mistake and that the United States was watching closely.
They did not spell out any consequences for an intervention.