US President, Barack Obama has warned Russia there will be “costs” for any military intervention in Ukraine. The president said he was deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements inside the country.
Ukraine’s acting president has accused Russia of deploying troops to Crimea and trying to provoke Kiev into “armed conflict” but Russia’s UN ambassador said any troop movements in Crimea were within an existing arrangement with Ukraine.
Speaking from the White House, President Obama commended Ukraine’s interim government for its “restraint”. “Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilising, which is not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia or Europe,” he said.
“It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine – and of international laws.”
He added: “Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And, indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
Obama did not spell out what any US response might be but sources say the US is considering exerting economic pressure by withholding the deeper trade ties that Moscow seeks.
It is also considering boycotting a G8 summit hosted by Russia in June.
US Republican Mike Rogers, who chairs the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said in a statement: “It appears that the Russian military now controls the Crimean peninsula.”
The White House said Vice-President Joe Biden called Ukrainian acting Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on Friday “to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for the new government and our commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democratic future of Ukraine.”
In a TV address on Friday, Ukraine’s interim President, Oleksander Turchynov said Moscow wanted the new government to react to provocations so it could annex Crimea and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stop provocations and start negotiations”.
He said Russia was behaving as it did before sending troops into Georgia in 2008 over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have large ethnic Russian populations.
“They are implementing the scenario like the one carried out in Abkhazia, when after provoking a conflict, they started an annexation of the territory,” Turchynov said.