FoxNews on February 28, 2014, reported that Russian troops moved into Crimea, U.S. officials told Fox News, prompting Ukraine to accuse Russia of an “armed invasion.” Excerpts below:
At the White House, President Obama said the U.S. government is “deeply concerned” by reports of Russian “military movements” and warned any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty would be “deeply destabilizing.”
“There will be costs” for any military intervention, he said, without specifying what those costs might be.
U.S. officials told Fox News they see “evidence of air and maritime movement into and out of Crimea by Russian forces” although the Pentagon declined to officially “characterize” the movement.
Agence France Press quoted a top Ukranian official as saying Russian aircraft carrying nearly 2,000 suspected troops have landed at a military air base near the regional capital of the restive Crimean peninsula.
“Thirteen Russian aircraft landed at the airport of Gvardeyskoye (near Simferopol) with 150 people in each one,” Sergiy Kunitsyn, the Ukrainian president’s special representative in Crimea, told the local ATR television channel, according to AFP. He accused Russia of an “armed invasion.”
The new developments prompted Ukraine to accuse Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” — a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis.
Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement late Friday saying, “It appears that the Russian military now controls the Crimean peninsula. This aggression is a threat not only to Ukraine, but to regional peace and stability. Russia’s latest action is yet another indicator that Vladimir Putin’s hegemonic ambitions threaten U.S. interests and allies around the world.”
A spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said eight Russian transport planes have landed in Crimea with unknown cargo.
Serhiy Astakhov said the people in the planes refused to identify themselves and waved off customs officials, saying they didn’t require their services.
Earlier in the day, Russian armored vehicles rumbled across Crimea and reports surfaced of troops being deployed at airports and a coast guard base – signs of a more heavy-handed approach to the crisis from Moscow.
Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told the U.N. Security Council that Russian military helicopters and transport planes are entering his country, that neither major airport in Ukraine is under national control and that the main airport was “captured by Russian armed forces.”
He claimed 11 Russian military helicopters had been brought in along with M-24 military transport planes.
Armed gunmen took control of the two main airports in Crimea on February 28.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.