Russia flexes muscle in Ukraine

Ukraine official: 8 Russian cargo planes in Crimea

Associated Press Published:

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- Armed men took control of key airports in Crimea on Friday and Russian transport planes flew into the strategic region, Ukrainian officials said, an ominous sign of the Kremlin's iron hand in Ukraine. President Barack Obama warned Moscow there will be costs if it intervenes militarily in Ukraine.

Serhiy Astakhov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service, said eight Russian transport planes landed in Crimea Peninsula in southern Ukraine with unknown cargo.

He told The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly 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, saying they didn't require their services.

Russia kept silent on claims of military intervention, even as it maintained its hard-line stance on protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea, a territory that has played a symbolic role in its national identity.

In Washington, Obama said the U.S. is deeply concerned by reports of military movements by Russia inside Ukraine. He said any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be destabilizing.

He also said it would violate Russia's commitment to respect Ukraine's borders and would invite global condemnation. Obama said the United States stands with the world community to affirm there will be costs for an intervention.

Ukraine's fugitive president resurfaced in Russia Friday to deliver a defiant condemnation of a "bandit coup," while Russian armored vehicles rumbled across Crimea and men described as Russian troops deployed at airports and a coast guard base -- ominous signs of the Kremlin's iron hand in Ukraine's confrontation.

The sudden arrival of men in military uniform patrolling key strategic facilities prompted Ukraine to accuse Russia of a "military invasion and occupation" -- a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis.

Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as president after Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev last weekend, urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop "provocations" in Crimea and pull back military forces from the peninsula. Turchynov said the Ukrainian military would fulfill its duty but would not be drawn into provocations.

Appearing for the first time since fleeing Ukraine, Yanukovych struck a tone both of bluster and caution -- vowing to "keep fighting for the future of Ukraine," while ruling out seeking Russian military help.

"Any military action in this situation is unacceptable," Yanukovych told reporters.

Then, seeking to make a firm point, he tried -- and failed -- to break a pen.

Associated Press journalists in Crimea spotted a convoy of nine armored personnel carriers bearing the Russian tricolor on a road between the port city of Sevastopol, where Russia has a naval base, and the regional capital, Simferopol. Later in the day, the airspace was closed over the peninsula, apparently due to tensions at the two airports.

Russia kept silent on claims of military intervention, even as it maintained its hard-line stance on protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea, a territory that was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires and has played a symbolic role in Russia's national identity.

Ukraine's U.N. ambassador said Friday that he told the U.N. Security Council that Russian military helicopters and transport planes are entering his country and that Russian armed forces seized Crimea's main airport.

Associated Press journalists in Crimea spotted a convoy of nine Russian armored personnel carriers on a road between the port city of Sevastopol, where Russia has a naval base, and the regional capital, Simferopol. The tensions at two Crimea airports apparently caused the closure of airspace over the peninsula.

Russia's Interfax agency cited Serhyi Kunitsyn, a Ukraine presidential envoy to Crimea, telling ATR television that 13 Russian planes carrying 150 Russian troops each landed at Gvardeiskoye air base. That report could not be confirmed.

Russian armored vehicles bearing the nation's tricolor rumbled across Crimea and men described as Russian troops took position at airports and a coast guard base.

The sudden arrival of men in military uniform patrolling key strategic facilities prompted Ukraine to accuse Russia of "military invasion and occupation" -- a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis.

Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as president after Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev last weekend, urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop "provocations" in Crimea and pull back military forces from the peninsula. Turchynov said the Ukrainian military would fulfill its duty but would not be drawn into provocations.

Earlier Friday Ukraine's fugitive president resurfaced in Russia to deliver a defiant condemnation of a "bandit coup."

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  • Vladimir Putin made a big convincing show during the Olympics.  He and his cronies must have been very busy keeping up the charade, while plotting to kill desparate citizens of the Ukraine.  The ousted dictator from the Ukraine was more worried about the safety of his own hide than his people. Interesting that he ran to Russia for shelter while his own people were slaughtered in the street.  

    God Bless the oppressed people around the world!