WASHINGTON - President Obama expressed concerns on Friday over reports that Russian troops are meddling in Ukraine as armed 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 in brief comments 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" on Friday, saying Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports on its strategic Crimea peninsula.
Ukraine's parliament also sent an urgent plea to the U.N. Security Council for a meeting on the crisis and adopted a resolution demanding Russia halt actions it says are aimed at splitting Crimea from the rest of the country.
Ukraine's autonomous province of Crimea is about 50% Russian speaking and many though not all say they identify more with Russia than Ukraine.
Russian jets this week have increased patrols along the Ukrainian border, and thousands of Russians troops have held military exercises near the Russia-Ukraine border, raising concerns about Russian interference.
Obama said that Vice President Biden spoke with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday to express the Obama administration's concerns.
"Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world," Obama said. "And indeed the United States will stand with the international community in affirming there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."
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," Carney said. "We expect other nations to do the same. And so we are closely watching Russia's military exercises along the Ukrainian border."
Tatianna Gajecky is from the Ukraine, but lives in Lakewood with her family. She says her parents had to flee the country back in 1944, when the Russians invaded. Hearing about the Russians moving into Ukraine again is frightening.
"It's very disturbing. It's very stressful for me. We know that the Russians always want Ukraine to be part of them, and we always want to be apart from them. We want to be independent," Gajecky said.
Gajecky says the comments by President Obama on Friday were comforting, but she continues to pray just as she has done since she was a young girl. She prays for the Ukrainian people and for her country to be free.
On Sunday morning at 10 a.m., The Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church in Denver will have a special service. They are encouraging the public to come out and join them as they continue to pray for Ukraine.
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