Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

TENSION BUILDING IN THE UKRAINE; Obama Warns Russia of 'Costs' for Intervening in Ukraine; OBAMA ISSUES WARNING; RUSSIAN LOYALISTS CONTROL AIRPORTS; RUSSIA REMAINS SILENT

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

TENSION BUILDING IN THE UKRAINE; Obama Warns Russia of 'Costs' for Intervening in Ukraine; OBAMA ISSUES WARNING; RUSSIAN LOYALISTS CONTROL AIRPORTS; RUSSIA REMAINS SILENT

Article excerpt

OBAMA ISSUES WARNING * President Barack Obama delivers a blunt warning to Moscow, expressing deep concern over reported military activity inside Ukraine by Russia.

RUSSIAN LOYALISTS CONTROL AIRPORTS * Armed men take control of key airports in Crimea, and Russian transport planes land in the strategic region, Ukrainian officials say.

RUSSIA REMAINS SILENT * Russia has been quiet on claims of military intervention, even as it maintains a hard-line stance on protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea.

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WASHINGTON * Delivering a blunt warning to Moscow, President Barack Obama expressed deep concern Friday over reported military activity inside Ukraine by Russia and warned "there will be costs" for any intervention.

He did not say what those costs might be, but U.S. officials said Friday that Obama may scrap plans to attend an international summit in Russia this summer and could also halt discussions on deepening trade ties with Moscow.

Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbor, which is undergoing political upheaval.

"Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing," Obama said, speaking from the White House. Such action by Russia would not serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, Russia or Europe, Obama said, and would represent a "profound interference" in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.

"Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world," Obama said. "The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."

As Obama prepared to speak, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Crimea, a pro-Russian region of southern Ukraine. Serhiy Astakhov said that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly Friday and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base, north of the regional capital, Simferopol.

Astakhov said the people in the planes refused to identify themselves and waved off customs officials.

Obama noted that Russia had a historic relationship with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, including cultural and economic ties and a Russian military facility in Crimea.

In recent conversations between U.S. and Russian officials, including a lengthy telephone conversation between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin just last week, Obama said the U.S. has made clear to the Russians that they can be part of an international community's effort to support the stability and success of Ukraine.

But, he said Friday, "we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine."

Earlier Friday, as pro-Russia gunmen patrolled Crimean streets in armored vehicles and took over airports there, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow against military moves in Crimea that could further inflame tension.

Kerry and White House spokesman Jay Carney both said any Russian military intervention would be a grave mistake and that the United States was watching closely.

Kerry said he called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the second time in two days to press the Kremlin to keep its promise to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Lavrov repeated Putin's pledge to do just that while also pointing out that Russia had broad interests in Ukraine, Kerry said.

Kerry noted that during his call with Lavrov, fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was holding a news conference in southern Russia in which he said he was not asking Moscow for military assistance and called military action "unacceptable." In his appearance before reporters, however, Yanukovych, who still regards himself as Ukraine's president, also vowed to "keep fighting for the future of Ukraine" and blamed the U. …

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