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
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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)
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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
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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.

Corruption

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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Comments page of 4
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by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
February 28, 2014 4:38 PM
Its about time the west stands up to Russian attitude or they should short up and take order from Putin.

by: Tima from: Turkey
February 28, 2014 2:10 PM
It is very interesting for me..in case the Russian Federation sends its troops to Ukraine what will The US and European do..The answer is nothing..
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
March 03, 2014 2:54 AM
I agree with you. US would do nothing striking Ukraine with arms because Obama is a democrat paying most attention to internal affairs and withdrawing troops from abroad.
In Response

by: Anatoliy
February 28, 2014 6:19 PM
Tima, few years ago one famous man from Iraq asked the same question. And that man was very close to Putin... Do you remember name of that man ?
US and GB have agreement with Ukraine about defense , the same like England before WW2 with Poland ....

by: Anonymous
February 28, 2014 1:20 PM
So... Now the Russian Government is trying to start the same thing that happened in Syria. What a disgrace to the world. I hope countries around the world stop doing business with Putin, if he thinks sending troops into Ukraine is going to make things better. Isolate Russia and don't let them do business with anyone. I like Russian people and have lots of Russian friends, they are great, not one of them likes Putin ruling their country. What we may see next is an arab spring type effect in Russia because of Putins actions.

by: Katy from: Italy
February 28, 2014 12:59 PM
Can somebody explain to me why ukraine people want to join europe? Thank you for reply
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
March 03, 2014 3:07 AM
Nice question. You probably mean joinning Europe does not always bring happiness to Ukrainians.

Noce answer. As long as Ukrainainas might have inferior complex, they probably could not stand on their own foot and have to keep seeking someone to depend on.Yet is it true Ukrainians have inferior complex? In my knowledge, Ukraine is one of the most fruitful lands in agriculture.
In Response

by: Katy from: Italy
March 01, 2014 5:03 AM
Thank you for reply.
In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
February 28, 2014 3:46 PM
It may be called as historical inferiority complex. Ukrainians can't solve their problems themselves, accuse Russians as the main cause of any trouble and expect that "magical" uncle from EU will only help them.

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
February 28, 2014 10:52 AM
If I was in charge of the Ukrainian army I would squash those nematodes at the airport tout suite. What are they waiting for? Respond with overwhelming force. Move out!

by: Anonymous
February 28, 2014 5:16 AM
This is the exact same type of problem in Syria. Russia trying to pry themselves into places the people do not want them. They will get a big smack on the hand in the end, because the world will not tolerate this type of behaviour. I hope the world boycotts them. Look at how many unarmed innocent civilians died in Syria already, majority by the arms provided by moscow, and funding as well. Funding a criminal to be precise, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands. Nobody likes criminals like these, nor anyone who helps them or arms them. Using their own military against their own people, a disgrace to the human race. I hope the people of Russia get rid of Putin because he is nothing but problems for the Russian people.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
March 02, 2014 7:44 AM
To JLP and Anonymous; what morals has Obama to warn Russia? So, it is now that Obama knows that the intergrity of a Sovereign nation has to be respected... ? Has Obama now awaken from his devilish tactic slumber? He supported the overthrow of a legitimately elected president of Ivory Coast as against the constitution of the country thereby paved way for the puppet of France to take over Ivory Coast. Where was the conscience and respect to International laws when NATO and Sarkozy invaded Libya and killed Ghadaffi? Where was the same Obama when he publicly armed Syria rebels? It is only under Obama/ Sarkozy administrations that Rebels are called Lagitimate government. There is something that Russia is bringing clear to the world; What the US and its allies are. Ask youself the big question; so Obama knows the International law over sovereignty of a nation? Answer yourself this simple question with sincerity before you can go ahead and call the great Putin and the Russia people any name that you feel.

May I make it clear to you here that Russia respects the Sovereignty of Ukraine. They have just sucessfully Rubbish Obama by tacticaly forcing out the truth out of his mouth.

Long live Vlademir Putin! Long live Russia!! Long live Ukraine!!!
In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
March 01, 2014 4:11 PM
to JLP: ...uncontrolled democracy lead to anarchy...
In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
March 01, 2014 1:47 AM
to JLP: but in fact problems of US impact far more people than just those in US. If for you freedom is invading other countries without any UNN permission and any sense of responsibility like it was for Iraq (you didn't even find any evidence of chemical weapon at the end), Libya (where you permitted to execute people publicly) or Afganistan...I and many other people of the world do not accept such "freedom" or "democracy". If you admire gay parades and accept the gays to adopt children, I do not accept such a democracy and wouldn't like to taste such freedom. I have nothing against gays but if they have such sexual preferences, please stay at your homes and whatever you want without imposing your perverted tastes to other people who do not want such a destiny to their childes. I resume - not you to say to others what to do and how to live!
In Response

by: JLP from: USA
February 28, 2014 7:23 PM
To Ruslan; In fact, it is everyone's responsibility to state that Putin, and others, are the blame. Putin's actions (aggression) puts the entire world at risk. He can't be trusted to honor his outward words. He can only be trusted to fall back on old KGB tacit of oppression. Freedom is wonderful, what you say you can do in Russia is a form of controlled freedom. Not bad by your historical standards, but far-far from what the West considers to be freedom.

Yes, to your point, all countries have problems, the problems in Russia, potentially, impact more people than just those in Russia.

To be fair, both side in The Ukraine have acted and performed poorly, but the shooting of protesters is murder.

I hope for a peaceful outcome of this crisis and I hope you, one day, taste what freedom is.
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 28, 2014 1:15 PM
Re: Russian
Not for me to say what I see? What I know? The whole world knows... So there is no hiding these facts. Take for example the operations in Chechnya, how many civilians were bombed by government forces? Or what about the theatre siege in moscow? (use of gas). Or what about the rights and freedoms? What about the gay people not allowed to talk about their sexuality, having to blindfold children , making them clueless and confused when they get older and see a gay person. Or what about the serious penalty for standing up for your human rights?

This is all tightening the grip on the people. Everyone knows for years and years the Russian gov. has been corrupt, and many politicians have been poisoned... Putin is no different than bashar al assad, he would kill all his people before losing control or grip of his own country. NOT do what is best for the people, the entire opposite. So the next time you ask me, who I am to comment on the "Way it is" think twice, because I will tell you how it is, and so will the rest of the world. Assad has commited crimes, anyone that arms him, or gives him money is an accomplice, he should be behind bars, he just hasnt been able to be captured for his crimes yet.

Sorry if the truth hurts, and any Russians I know totally dislike Putin and would rather see someone else in power, someone everyone likes and isn't against people by their sexuality or their heritage. Putin tried brainwashing Russians that all opposition in Syria are terrorists, absolutely not the case, many are noble people trying to bring justice to a criminal guilty of killing tens of thousands of unarmed civilians (women AND children).
In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
February 28, 2014 5:50 AM
Who are you to judge? What do you know about this matter? Do you think libyans, iraquies and other are happy after the "peaceful" operation of NATO? You either nuts or just an ukranian nazi without any sense of reality...We, ordinary people of Russia, love our country and respect our president, we feel ourself free to move wherever we want, to read, listen, write, work and be paid well enough, etc. Yes, as many other contries, we have some problems but we are trying to solve them and not you to say whether Putin is problem for us or not!

by: Ruslan from: Russia
February 28, 2014 4:56 AM
As we see from the comments and the news, unfortunately, the western people badly understand what's exactly going on in Ukraine and their mass media, as always, keep showing the problem from one-sided viewpoint - if someone comes to the street saying "I'm for democracy" - you say: well, good boy! when it happens somewhere in Russia or Ukraine, you say - hmmm, hero, keep doing, fight against the tyranny! I understand, you still remember USRR... but specially for you, a good news, - it collapsed, more than 20 years ago...and since then Ukraine has been indipendent in its choice, its policy, free to move whatever it wants...And what the result??? The result is that last week a group of armed people, supported by a group of 10-20 thousand people (in Ukraine population more than 40 mln.!!!) seized legal power without any elections, strart assigning ministers (incl. those of defence and internal affairs), give them the orders...And the western countries to support these separatists... How do you expect Russia to react??? Imagine such a situation to develop close to US??? I'm native ukranian, citizen of the Russia and live here almost all my life, love both of my motherlands and can't, as many other ukranians, to separate Ukraine and Russia as they have a long common histrory, millions of Russians live in Ukraine, millions of Ukranians live in Russia...very sad to see at what's going on now...
In Response

by: for Ruslan from: Kiev - NY
February 28, 2014 6:31 PM
Ruslan. don't fool people. I'm from Kiev Ukraine. I am in NY now, but all my friends and relatives in Kiev speak Russian and they hate Putin and your criminal Russian government, Go to Russia... everyone know - your zombie Putin TV blames Americans, British "fashists"... Look in mirror. Your government is really gangsters. Shame !

by: Artur from: Kyiv
February 28, 2014 2:14 AM
I am Ukrainian and I ask western countries and NATO to help Ukrainians to get rid of Russian tyranny on our territory. Ukrainians made their choice and that choice is in favor of USA and EU.
In Response

by: Sergey from: Russia
February 28, 2014 6:10 AM
The main part of nowadays problem in and for Ukraine are the NAZI came to the government. Those people standing on Maidan and fighting for their freedom and rights are now not the same peple standing some months ago. At the beginning of protests there were not any antyjew ant antyrussian calls. But today they are. The Ukraine have to remain country in their actual boarder. Mr Yanukovych is no longer the president as far as he left their country, their people in these hard days and provided the NAZI do what they whant... This truth well known all over the world "The only good NAZI is a dead one." What the real patriot have to do now... And what side of one will take the US? Will it support the new NAZI government or don't? And do not say more than that stupid Russian. Otherwise you will no longer be perceived as a serious man ...
In Response

by: Stas from: Ukraine
February 28, 2014 5:58 AM
Who made this choice??? Did you ask ALL ukrainian people????

by: Victor from: Kyiv
February 28, 2014 2:08 AM
Western countries must help Ukrainians to gain freedom from Russia. Ukraine is a part of EUROPE and friend of USA. We made our choice and that choice is in favor of EU and USA. NATO should take more tougher stance against Russia and if needed,deplores troops on territory of Ukraine to stave off intervention from Russia.

by: Alex from: USA
February 27, 2014 8:41 PM
I hope Europe and USA will support Ukraine and also I believe Russia will get real freedom from dictatorship sooner then people think.
In Response

by: Ruslan from: Russia
February 28, 2014 6:34 AM
...freedom in Russia from dictatorship? We have no dictratorship here. EU and US to support Ukraine? You must be kidding?! Unless you mean the way they did it for Iraq and Libya...
In Response

by: hai from: usa
February 28, 2014 1:22 AM
Biden may get better fate than Napoleon and Hitler.
Or he needs to go back to high school for failing history.
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