President Obama, in a brief statement on Friday, said he was "deeply concerned" over reports that Russian troops are meddling in Ukraine as their men took up positions in Ukraine's Crimean region.
"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside Ukraine," Obama said at the White House. He added, "It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws.
"Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia or Europe," he said.
Earlier on Friday, Ukraine's interior ministry accused Russia of a "military invasion and occupation," saying Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports on its strategic Crimea peninsula.
Reports indicate that it is unnerving to those in Ukraine, citizens and travelers alike, having multitudes of masked men with assault rifles who are blatantly ignoring warnings from Kiev of military meddling. And statements from the ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, saying that the country had been taken over by fascists and “bandits.”
The city's only military presence is unmarked, unidentified gunmen who seized the Parliament building as well as a governmental office complex this week. And Simferopol International Airport was swirling with unconfirmed rumors that Russian troops had taken over Crimea's main television station, a central post office and other strategic locations.
Residents also exchanged information, apparently more grounded in reality, about sightings of Russian military transport planes landing at airports.
“This is an open but unannounced aggression by the Russian Federation against the territory of Ukraine,” said Refat Chubarov, the leader of Crimea’s indigenous population of Tatars. He also said Russian military helicopters had violated Ukrainian sovereignty by flying into Crimea without permission.
He added, “People of Crimea don’t want to submit and they will not submit to Bandera thugs.”
The White House on Thursday urged Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty amid the events unfolding on the Crimea peninsula.
"We strongly support Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," said spokesman Jay Carney. "We expect other nations to do the same. And so we are closely watching Russia's military exercises along the Ukrainian border."
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