President Obama Threatens 'Costs' If Russia Involves Itself In Ukraine Conflict

In a very strongly-worded address on the situation in Ukraine, President Obama said Friday that his administration is “deeply concerned” about reports that Russian forces are asserting control in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, and warned that there will be “costs” if Russia involves itself militarily in the conflict. Obama voiced support for the interim government that assumed control after the country’s president fled last week, and said that Russian military involvement would be “deeply destabilizing” in the region. It’s the president’s first public address on the rapidly-evolving conflict, and a very aggressive one at that.

“We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” Obama said, speaking at the White House. “Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing.”

“The United States will stand with the international community that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” Obama added.

Obama’s statement that “Vice President Biden just spoke with the Prime Minister of Ukraine” is also significant. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovynch insists that he’s still the legitimate leader of the country, but the parliament feels otherwise, and elected Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk as interim president last week.

Obama’s reference to “the Prime Minister” of Ukraine, then, amounts to a de facto recognition that the new interim government — and not the remnants of Yanukovych’s administration — is in fact the legitimate governing body in Ukraine.