US condemns Russian military intervention in Ukraine, calls on Russia to withdraw
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama yesterday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine by pulling his forces back to bases in the country’s Crimean region and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.
The White House says Obama delivered that message to Putin during a 90-minute telephone conversation.
But Obama’s request was unlikely to be granted. The Kremlin said Putin emphasized to Obama that real threats exist to the life and health of Russian citizens living in Ukraine and that Russia has the right to protect its interests there.
Russian troops took over Crimea yesterday after the parliament in Moscow gave Putin the authority to send them in.
The newly installed government in Ukraine was powerless to react to the spread of Russian troops.
Putin sought and quickly got his parliament’s approval to use its military to protect Russia’s interests across Ukraine. But while sometimes-violent pro-Russian protests broke out yesterday in a number of Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s immediate focus appeared to be Crimea.
Tensions increased when Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, made a late night announcement that he had ordered the country’s armed forces to be at full readiness because of the threat of “potential aggression.”
Speaking live on Ukrainian TV, Turchynov said he had also ordered stepped up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic infrastructure.
Ignoring President Barack Obama’s warning Friday that “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily, Putin sharply raised the stakes in the conflict over Ukraine’s future evoking memories of Cold War brinkmanship. The latest moves follow months of pro-democracy protests against the now-fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his decision to turn Ukraine toward Russia, its longtime patron, instead of the European Union.