President Barack Obama said the United States stands with the international community in affirming that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” and defended the country’s citizens' right to “determine their own future,” at a press conference Friday.
A senior U.S. official said Obama and European leaders would consider skipping the G8 summit in Sochi, Russia, if the country intervenes militarily in Ukraine. He also said a possible response could include avoiding deeper trade and commerce ties Moscow is seeking. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called for sanctions against "Russian individuals and entities who use force or interfere in Ukraine's domestic affairs."
The remarks came as the U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors for the briefing from Ukraine's U.N. ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev on the rapidly escalating situation in Crimea. He said that Russian military helicopters and transport planes are entering his country and Russian armed forces seized Ukraine's main airport.
He told reporters Friday outside the council that neither major airport in Ukraine is under national control and that the main airport was "captured by Russian armed forces." He said Russian military helicopters had been brought in along with military transport planes.
Ukraine's Defense Ministery said it has information of unknown "radical forces" planning operations against its military units in Crimea on early Saturday morning.
Ukraine's interim president Oleksandr Turchynov appealed to Vladimir Putin to stop Russia's "open aggression" against the country and withdraw from the flashpoint Crimea peninsula.
"I personally appeal to President Putin to immediately stop military provocation and to withdraw from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," he told reporters.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power urged Russia to “pull back” from the region, and called for an urgent international mediation session. "We urge Russia to join us in helping Ukraine get back on the path to a brighter future,” she told Al Jazeera.
The private Security Council meeting came hours after Ukraine said Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports in its Crimean peninsula, and sought help from the council to help protect it from its powerful neighbor.
Simferopol airport officials have confirmed to Al Jazeera that all flights in and out Simferopol have been canceled because the air space is closed over Crimea until at least 6:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovich insisted he had not been overthrown, surfacing in Russia on Friday after a week in hiding and hitting out at what he described as the violent usurpers that seized power in Ukraine. Looking nervous while addressing reporters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovich said he was forced to flee Ukraine under duress.
“Power in Ukraine was seized by nationalists, neo-Fascist youths that represent an absolute minority of the people,” he said. “I was not overthrown. I was forced to leave Ukraine under immediate threat to my life and the lives of my loved ones.”
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor asked Russia to extradite former President Yanukovich on Friday.
In response to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the rapidly escalating situation in Crimea, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia considers the events in Crimea as a result of internal political processes in Ukraine and therefore does not see any need to hold immediate consultations.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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