News / Europe

Obama Warns Russia Over Ukraine Meddling

Luis Ramirez
President Barack Obama has warned Moscow there will be costs if Russian troops intervene in Ukraine following reports that armed men, possibly Russians, have taken up positions in the Crimean region.

Obama said at the White House the United States is deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements inside Ukraine.

“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 said.

Obama said he wants to make it very clear that the Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. He reminded Russia that it has committed itself to respect Ukrainian sovereignty.

A top U.S. official said the United States and European leaders may skip the G8 economic summit in Sochi, Russia, later this year if the Russian military intervenes in Ukraine.

The official said Friday that deeper trade ties and other commercial projects with Russia also could be canceled.

Before the president spoke, Ukraine's United Nations ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, told an emergency Security Council meeting that Russian attack helicopters and military transport planes have crossed into Crimea.

Sergeyev described the main airport as being "captured" by Russian forces. Sergeyev said he wants moral and political support from the world community and that what is going on in his country is "awful."

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the United States is calling for an urgent international mediation mission for Crimea.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country is against what he calls externally imposed mediation. When asked whether Russia has invaded Ukraine, he said Russia is acting within a treaty with Ukraine that allows it to have a base in Crimea for the Russian Black Sea fleet.

Turchynov speaks out

Turchynov said Russian actions Friday were "naked aggression."  He likened it to events that led up to Russia's 2008 invasion of Abkhazia -- a pro-Russian region of Georgia.

Ukraine's acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, says Russian forces have taken control of the two main airports in Crimea. He calls this a "military invasion."

The Kremlin said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine in telephone calls with British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Council Chairman Herman Van Rompuy.

The Kremlin said the conversations emphasized the need to prevent a further escalation of violence and quickly normalize the situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine's interior minister said Russian forces had taken control of the two main airports in Crimea.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov described the development as a "military invasion" in a Facebook post Friday.  He said armed Russian troops were blocking the Belbek airport in Sevastopol, where Russia has a naval base. Unidentified gunmen were also patrolling the international airport in Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports from Crimea airport
VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports from Crimea airport i
|| 0:00:00

Unidentified gunmen on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, Feb. 28, 2014 (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)Unidentified gunmen on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, Feb. 28, 2014 (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
Unidentified gunmen on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, Feb. 28, 2014 (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
Unidentified gunmen on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, Feb. 28, 2014 (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott, who flew into Simferopol Airport on Friday, reported seeing gunmen wearing camouflage and carrying automatic weapons at the airport. 

"I saw about a dozen people in what looks like unbranded military uniforms - very, very professional, with extremely modern, heavy weaponry that they were carrying," she said. "But they had no insignia, nothing to identify them, other than by their demeanor and their dress and their weaponry," said Arrott. "They are not a menacing presence. The airport is open, flights are coming in and they are not bothering anybody."

The Associated Press quoted Ukraine's State Border Guard as saying a Ukrainian coast guard base was surrounded by about two dozen Russian marines.

Ukraine's border guard service also said Friday that more than 10 Russian military helicopters flew into Ukrainian airspace over Crimea. Ukraine's UNIAN news agency and other media posted what they said was a video of the flyover.

Ukrainian media also reported Friday that armed persons were blockading the premises of Krymaerorukh (CrimeaAeroMovement), a state enterprise responsible for controlling air traffic over Crimea.

On Thursday, gunmen raised the Russian flag over buildings in Crimea Thursday.  The Kremlin sent Russian fighter jets to patrol its border with Ukraine after announcing large-scale military exercises in the area.

The Crimean parliament voted to dismiss the regional government and hold a referendum to determine Crimea's status in Ukraine. The referendum is set for May 25, the same day Ukraine is scheduled to hold a presidential election.

Watch related video by Henry Ridgwell for VOA:

Ukraine Seeks Hague Trial for Yanukovychi
March 01, 2014 1:34 AM
Ukraine’s newly-appointed government says it will seek the extradition of the country’s ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych, who gave a news conference Friday in Russia -- his first appearance since fleeing Kyiv last week. Ukraine’s prosecutor has accused Yanukovych of mass murder, and wants him tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Yanukovych speaks

The fast-moving events also included the first public appearance by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych since he fled his country.  Yanukovich held a press conference from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, defiantly stating he was the legitimately elected leader and that he was ready to fight for Ukraine.

The ousted leader also denied ordering the shooting of protesters that left dozens dead.

He said he was forced to leave Ukraine, and accused his opponents of trying to take control of the country through terror and fear, describing the interim government in Kyiv as "illegitimate."  He blamed the West for backing the protest movement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the crisis Friday via telephone. Kerry told Lavrov it was important not to inflame the already tense situation, while also calling on all parties in Ukraine to avoid any steps that could be misinterpreted.

Lavrov, in turn, emphasized to Kerry the need to curb "extreme radicals'' and take into account the interests of all political forces and all  Ukrainian regions when trying to end the crisis.

The United Nations Security Council announced it would hold a closed-door meeting on Ukraine Friday afternoon at the request of the acting government in Kyiv, which warned the situation in Crimea could threaten its terroritorial integrity.

The ousted Ukrainian leader holds a press conference in the Russia city of Rostov-on-Don on Feb. 28, 2014.
The ousted Ukrainian leader holds a press conference in the Russia city of Rostov-on-Don on Feb. 28, 2014.

Yanukovych fled Kyiv last week and his exact whereabouts were not known. Ukraine's interim government issued an arrest warrant for him this week, accusing him and other officials of mass murder of protesters.

Scores of protesters were killed when Ukrainian riot police tried to disperse camps set up in Kyiv's Independence Square. The anti-government movement erupted after  Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in favor of one with Russia last November.

Also Friday, Putin finally broke his week-long silence on the crisis, releasing a statement ordering his government to work with Ukrainian and foreign partners to find a financial package to protect Ukraine's collapsing finances.


Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has accused the Yanukovych government of stealing billions from the state treasury.  He said $70 billion in Ukrainian government money had been sent to offshore accounts over the last three years, and that $37 billion of credit it received has disappeared, leaving Ukraine with severe financial problems.

Ukraine’s parliament voted this week to attempt to prosecute Yanukovych at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But Moscow is unlikely to hand over its long-time ally to face international justice, said Phil Clark, an expert on the ICC at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Giving up Yanukovych would send a very negative signal to the Russian population within Ukraine. At the moment I think all things lead to the fact that Russia will probably keep a hold of Yanukovych. If we do see an ICC case opened, then the prosecutor has another very difficult political negotiation ahead, which is to try and convince Moscow to give Yanukovych up," Clark said.

Swiss authorities launched a money laundering probe into Yanukovych and his son, Oleksander, on Friday, a day after saying they would order banks to freeze any funds connected to the ousted Ukrainian president.  Austria also said it would freeze any assets Yanukovych might have in those countries.

The International Monetary Fund and European Union are sending teams to Ukraine to assess the country's needs. The United States also is considering $1 billion in loan guarantees.

Some information for this report was provided by VOA's Elizabeth Arrott in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Reuters.

  • Armed men stand guard at the Simferopol airport in the Crimea region of Ukraine, Feb. 28, 2014.
  • An unidentified gunman aims his assault rifle while he and others block the road toward the military airport at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine, Feb. 28, 2014.
  • Russian troops block the road way towards the military airport at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, Feb. 28, 2014.
  • Police stand guard at a local parliament in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Feb. 28, 2014.
  • Cossacks attend a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Feb. 28, 2014.
  • An anti-Yanukovych protester sleeps at a barricade at Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 28, 2014.
  • Two priests pray at a memorial for the people killed in clashes with the police at Kyiv's Independence Square, Feb. 28, 2014.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 4
by: Todd from: Florida
March 16, 2014 10:44 PM
Wow really terrorist king obama?
Its wrong for Russia to do it but its okay of you do it.

by: Nicole
March 12, 2014 12:16 AM
On what background can Obama Bin Ladin warn Russia? Americans had been killing women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq, they invaded Iraq without United Nations approval and they have been supporting terrorists in Syria and they financed Osama back in the 80's with two billion dollars, the list is long, Vietnam, Korea, and the 911 that was made in Hollywood.

by: ozzie from: Austin, tX
March 03, 2014 6:15 PM
I'M confident our government leaders will once again resolve the issuem

by: George from: The world
March 03, 2014 1:52 AM
First, you all are making a tremendous mistake. Weather you are Russian or Ukrainian or American it doesn't matter. We are all people and brothers (unless you are the last surviving neanderthal) these borders are meaningless, you can't own a piece of the world when we all own this place. Weather you believe in god or nature we are all masters of this whole land. It's sad that these fake governments and borders separate us. That being said, a common theme here is each side blaming the others government or media. Well, you all are correct. Each side create propaganda to rally the people against a common enemy (USA Russia or nato) the common enemy is one we ALL share. That of course is the rich, corrupt leaders in power all over the world. Our greatest weapon is unity. Not Russian and Russian or American and America but PEOPLE. If we truly want freedom and equality and if we really want peace and love we need to fight together. We all need help, I am an American but I see Russia as a distant home filled with family. Sadly, we are brainwashed here as you are there. This can't go on but as long as we are separated and see each other as "different" or the "other" we are doomed to suffer oppression in some form or another. I know most won't listen to me but I had to say something. I would like someone from Russia or Ukrain to email me and talk about what's going on

by: paschn from: U.S.
March 02, 2014 5:41 PM
So.... the U.S. warns Russia about intervention in the Ukraine eh? Then, may we assume that what the U.S. did in Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan was simply a warm and fuzzy get-together?
If they (U.S.),continue trying to control the world with the present state of their economy, they'll be throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails rather than D. E. munitions, White Phosphorus etc. How about a short quiz?

Which nation has 700 military bases in 130 nations around the globe?

Which nation has murdered 2 (that we know of), sitting heads of state?

Which nation's Secretary of State laughed and joked about the murder of Libya's leader?

Finally, which nation has invaded, destroyed and left more nations in utter chaos in the last fifteen years (only)?

Hint; It ain't Russia.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
March 03, 2014 2:29 AM
I completely agree with you. Us should realize ASAP how it is immature to deal matters, especially foreign affairs, on the basis of its own justice. Holding up unilateral justice never works to solve any problembs but adding fuels to conflicts and make them worse. US should know there are hundreds of justice where hundreds of nations exist.You are not almighty nor God.
In Response

by: me from: US
March 03, 2014 1:28 AM
It's so sad but u are 100% right

by: Arunas Jonas Kastenas from: Norway
March 01, 2014 3:35 PM
Ukrainian state and people are deeply suffering.

It seems that the west is cautious about the situation, but is not taking any actions to avoid instant military conflict with Russia itself.

Russia is taking advantage of chaos in Ukraine and occupies it with a false pretense of providing help. This is intervention towards sovereignty of a modern state.

There was no bloodshed in that region, and the false pretense to protect Russian citizens in Crimea is absolutely outrageous, as they have not been attacked.

The aim of Russia is to create a puppet state of Crimea Republic. However historically, this land is home for Tatars, Ukrainians and Russians. No one can have clear claims to this land, especially external aggressor.

In my MA thesis I have analyzed propaganda in Russian Movies during and after Georgian Russian war. I was deeply involved with Georgian situation. Present situation is quite similar. In Russian media currently there is a huge spin around present day situation. Sadly, many Russians think it is ok to occupy another country.

United Nato, USA, EU should finally put a stop to Russian aggressor politics by giving a chance to a new European Ukraine. I know that Russian Political model is based on National Socialism with authoritarian regime of Putin, and this needs to be "fueled" by both internal and external wars to explain large sums of money invested into military. This needs to end.

It is clear that people who have understanding of the situation and care for a better future, understand that living in Russia with present day politics would mean no bright future. In case puppet Republic of Crimea is formed, that would mean extension of Russia to the eastern Europe.

May the God and good people save us all from the evil empire.

Ps. I am half Russian myself and by no means I want to offen Russian people. I just want the tirony to finally end. People need to open their eyes and finally see their political leader as a moden day Antichrist.

In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
March 02, 2014 2:49 AM
It is obvious that you have no idea what you writing about. It is far far from real situation and for me it's a pity to hear about Russia as an evil empire. If you compare how many people around the world were died from indirect or direct invasion of US and NATO the count will be not in your is easy to take one side, much more difficult to scrutinize the problem and to look at it from different sides, in particular when you talk about people, countries and their historical and cultural patient and more balanced in your judgments...

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
March 01, 2014 2:20 PM
After the Warning comes the famous RED line and after come a White Flag........its clear and obvious Obama's America does not have the stomach for any form of WAR during his presidency and Putin's Russia knows and will take full advantage of that.

by: Artur from: Kiev
February 28, 2014 11:53 PM
Yanukovich is killer of its own nation. The scale of embezzlement in Ukraine during Yanukovich is very high. The new government in Kiev is legal and will be loyal to EU and USA. That is what people exactly want to.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
March 03, 2014 2:46 AM
It looks you have a good reason to say so, huge enbezzlement in Ukraine during Yanukovich, when I take account the photos of his residence with gorgeous equipments showed on a recent VOA report.

by: Ivan from: Crimea
February 28, 2014 6:08 PM
Ukrainian government in Kiev came to power illegally. Military coup, which led the opposition to the participation of armed extremists. At this time, there is only one legal authority. This parliament of the autonomous republic of Crimea. Military took under its protection the population and the parliament to prevent extremists from Kiev to the. Population felt calmer.
In Response

by: Rulan from: Russia
March 02, 2014 3:02 AM
to Artur: emotions... government in Kiev is legal? what is legal in Ukraine now? maybe Nazis? About cities in Russia: look at photos, for instance, of Milan suburb of 50thies, you will find that it was not so beautiful as it is now... we need time and our cities will be comfortable enough...the major cities as Moscow, St.Peterburg, Kazan are already modern and beautiful attracting a lot of tourists
In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
March 01, 2014 1:57 AM
to Artur: Russian troops stay in Crimea in accordance with the long-term agreement signed with Ukraine many years ago. Under this agreement Russians are even permitted to use force to defend its troops in the case of any kind of aggression. This situation is aggravated by the fact that Ukraine's government has been seized but armed separatists...
In Response

by: Artur from: Kiev
February 28, 2014 11:58 PM
Crimea is occupied by Russian military. Is it legal? Is not it coup? Russia plays with fire. If you want to be a part of Russia,firstly go to Russian towns and villages and see how badly they live there. The same way of live you will have

by: bs jones from: new york city
February 28, 2014 5:02 PM
Excellent story. I appreciate how it clearly and concisely lays out the day's events.
Comments page of 4

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