Obama 'Deeply Concerned' About Russian Military Movements in Ukraine

The President remarks on the continued violence in Crimea.
3:00 | 02/28/14

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Transcript for Obama 'Deeply Concerned' About Russian Military Movements in Ukraine
This is a special -- And then that's when you -- -- this ABC news digital special report the fight for Ukraine has taken a dangerous turn of the last twelve hours with Russian forces now control the main airport Crimea. In the south of the country and more forces now headed for the Black Sea to the capital city. Absent fair Paul. So for more on the developments I want to bring an ABC's -- Mark Pryor who is in the capital Crimea and ABC news political director -- in Washington DC standing by all of us. For the president to make an announcement in just a short time from now the first -- -- to bring in to this conversation what is the latest on the troop movements in Crimea. Exalted deeds that day of high tension of high drama here in the Crimea peninsula which -- -- southern Ukraine. But it a very Russian part of the country we woke up this morning to news that pro Russian forces had taken over. Or at least were patrolling outside in controlling the two main airports here. One near the port city so simple want your main international airport. In central -- We went straight to the airport. And what we ran into -- dozens. Armed man -- which -- large eruption machine guns patrolling not aggressively very quietly. -- outside this report not. Change and not obstruct indicated that -- -- -- can the airport. But simply making their presence known it was a very strong show force they're wearing -- -- that we didn't immediately recognized that you couldn't immediately. -- -- the uniform worn army or -- not another they weren't wearing. Any sort of recognizable -- that when we went -- to start speak with them. They refused to speak put -- it was clear that they were there to make their presence known and what was clear was that they were pro Russian forces we can not say. That they were Russian troops we do not know that all we did see throughout the course today what some minor Russian troop movement. They can't beat Wheaton actually acre city authority nine Russian. Armored personnel carriers that really haven't done anything yet. But they have made their probably know so -- considers its severity. To try and hide drum -- Here in the Crimea we really don't know what's gonna happen next but Russian forces. And the pro Russian groups here in Crimea are making it known that they are rejecting everything that is happening in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. -- deal closer. Russia to -- according. Well outside of Crimea itself that what has been a response from Moscow has there been any statement or any justification for what's happening right now. It's been extremely muted in fact the Black Sea fleet. Has so that involved in any of these takeovers. The -- blood couldn't put out its first statement this morning. Since the -- -- all the new congress and Kia last week saying they will offer aid. To Ukraine but but they really haven't made any sort of -- Aggressive maneuvers. Directs. Aggressive actions. But at the same time they're watching it very closely you can be -- -- seized. A Ukrainian Crimea as an extension of -- an extension. Of the Russian empire -- that they're not gonna let anything sort of slip away they want to make sure that their presence is known here. As you're talking about the pro Russian forces being very visible and obviously taking control -- that airport but what about in the streets in other areas of Crimea have you seen that kind of presence grow over these past couple of days. Outside of the airport. The focus really has been these two counts about the poll is right there on the water on the Black Sea. That's where Russia got its Black Sea fleet with some 2526000. Russian troops. Then there's also the capitalist. Central -- we are right now and all this -- could -- to start yesterday when we welcome to news. That the parliament building had big storm. By pro -- gunmen -- -- -- -- before dawn and they ran up the flag. And -- and it really wasn't much opposition. We got outside the parliament -- A big crowd of hundreds of people waving Russian Arctic singing Russian songs saying. That they would they deal Russian that there are not Ukrainian -- they want to be part of so you really not seeing much opposition to to these pro Russia groups that are. That are coming out and then taking upbeat prediction that government buildings you're not seeing Ukrainian police -- -- not -- Ukrainian. Army oppose them. So it's really remarkable and if you do what's what we're trying to dig down into right now is what the pro Russia being. You know this unexpected. So -- -- -- normal. Many former U drivers just regular Koreans who work. Who are sitting at checkpoints here on the street but other -- like today you are or you're seeing high exceptional highly militarized well equipped. Unit -- -- military unit. It's so it's got this all encompassing term or try to figure right now. As to what extent Russia is involved with this Saturday and that that the only sort of -- probable. Evidence that we've seen so far org this is what this column -- eight PC that we saw on the road this afternoon. There really hasn't. Hadn't done anything yet so to some extent -- you'd see -- -- and can't you see that there. That they are making their presence known or Russia as an entity hasn't yet done -- think it is these pro Russia groups. That are taking over these government installation that are all this year. -- -- -- -- with us if you -- I want to bring in our political director -- clients anybody in Washington again after -- waiting for the president to address the country in just a moment but -- when asked about this. The president said recently that Russia would be. -- wise not to cross certain lines have they done so today. That's gonna be -- the question the president asked answered today whether this crosses any of -- so called red lines that he has drawn himself in this. He has to be careful here because -- -- references the actual involvement of the Russian government is not known at this point we're talking about. Military garb that isn't marked clearly. -- certainly the ukrainians believe that these are Russian. Troops -- we don't have direct evidence of that or perhaps -- do we do maybe that's and the present we talked about Prius to be careful of what he says right now Mike's expectation would be as he settled long. Counseling some sort of restraint on both sides hoping for for -- maybe something that can return to it to more of of the cease fire state. Because unless he's got direct evidence that's a pretty harsh line and a harsh accusation to level -- the Russian government with a lot of -- Far beyond Ukraine if you start talking about saying that the the Russians have. Cross the line here so I think that it's on the US calibrate a little bit you have the ukrainians -- -- United Nations and you have a president. Who is already on the record on this and saying that there are certain actions that he would not be permitted. That is of course best case scenario but at the same time -- had there been any discussions of any potential military option on the table. I don't think we've heard and anything with that involves US boots on the ground I think we're a long way from that I think that would be a major escalation that this president in this White House. Aren't anywhere near we've heard a lot of talk about you know. Anything involving sanctions that's been a big piece of -- you can. Obviously choose to engage in other ways with with operations off of the post. Of Crimea but I I don't think there were at this stage talking about American intervention and in any sense. Alex does the United States or any western power really have any leverage in the region right now. Well they certainly have a huge amount of leverage certainly would -- critic -- not just being. But he. But the Europeans and Ukraine isn't is that you got the potential. It -- not financial -- straight and so. They certainly -- graduated this new government returned. Of shaping its direction but. -- that the power on the other side clearly. Is the Russians -- not just here Crimea but. But you know extending all the way to yet so this is something that needs to be worked out. With Russia this -- this goes far beyond just Ukrainian problem this is really an international issue and so we've seen. Secretary of state obviously -- speaking on an almost daily basis with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov. We've -- secretary -- the defense struck Cagle doing the same thing with his counterpart. -- -- We've seen a parade. Of official going through -- -- that just speak suited to -- to what extent this really is an international issue that needs to be. Work not just by the Ukrainian. You're on the ground. -- book by diplomats back in their respective capitals and in the the other elements remembered all this. The masters Saber rattling that work here you're coming from but not just bigger -- move resort you're seeing here to Crimea. But a -- -- military under military exercise. There Russia is about undertake with some. 150000. Troops many of them right here on the border with Ukraine -- got fighter jets. Unarmed combat alert status of course the Russians are saying -- -- nothing to do with Ukraine but you can be sure. The American officials have said as much they're watching extremely closely army -- and carrier -- on the rush does not do anything provocative. And that they're good they could spin out of control that this -- that. Continue to be at the risk that speaks to that here that -- really could escalate. Rick let me ask you quickly -- at the two minute warning the president would be -- -- just for just a moment but first what does the United States have at stake in Crimea. I think the larger stakes -- the Russian relationship and Russia's importance in Syria in the broader Middle East cannot be. Overstated and I think you saw the diplomatic dance a -- during the Olympics and I think even more careful now that it's over when you feel like. President -- has less at stake we had a tenuous relationship between this White House in this Kremlin. And I think there's a realization that you have to be careful when you're doing this you have to also know that you're going to be pushed back. By foreign policy hawks back home everything this president does is scrutinized when it comes to Russia. He's been accused in the past of being too soft on him on having a hard enough line and I think he's going to have increasing pressure. Our let's go now to president. Over the last several days the investors have been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine. -- throughout this crisis we have been very clear about one fundamental principle. The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. Together -- our European allies we have urged an end the violence and encouraged ukrainians to pursue -- course. Which they stabilize their country. Forge a broad based government and move to elections this spring. I also spoke several days ago with president -- And my administration has been in daily communication with the Russian officials. And we make clear that they can be part of an international community's effort. To support the stability and success of the united Ukraine going forward. Which is not only in the interest of people -- Ukraine and the international community but also in Russia's interest. However we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has the historic relationship -- Ukraine including cultural and economic times and a military facility in Crimea. But any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing. Which is not -- -- accrued interest. Ukraine. Russia or Europe. It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation of Russia's commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty. And borders of Ukraine. And of international Waltz. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed the United States will stand with the international community in affirming -- there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine. The events of the past several months remind us of how. Difficult democracy can be in a country with -- divisions. But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future. Right now the situation remains very float. Vice President Biden just spoke with prime minister. The prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports is government's efforts. And stands for its sovereignty territorial integrity and democratic future Ukraine. I also command of the Ukrainian government's restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations. We will continue to coordinate closely -- our European allies. We will community continue to communicate directly with the Russian government. And we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed. As events develop. Thanks very much. -- -- -- They -- who was. And -- was restated by the president there from the latest developments that -- happening in Ukraine has. Pro Russian authorities have seize control of the airport in the Crimean region there. ABC's outsmart part is in the area and Alex based on what we just heard that from the president as far as the relationship back and forth battling between the United States and Russia. But what do you make about the the Ukrainian government's response -- -- itself. It was really it wasn't very brief statement -- -- thinker in Obama came out. Saying right there you know two essentially to Vladimir Putin in -- Russians. We are watching you. It was it would -- there's a moment there when he immediately mentioned -- new prime minister. Thank you seem to to forget his name and and that spoke -- what you talked about how the without fluid the situation. But my big takeaways there was. He kept saying it. That you want -- -- people to determine their future. That you know -- -- -- -- question of self determination -- -- It is that it particularly strong question right here Crimea Morse a war and you -- You reverend that simple one province in Ukraine. That didn't really -- much of be revolutionary fervor that we saw. -- he had been directs the country over the past few months credit rose up against that. President Viktor Yanukovych. And is -- this province is firmly. Pro -- the majority around 60% of the people here are ethnically. And culturally eruption the language here is Russian you don't hear. Any sort of Ukrainian so if -- Obama to come out and say we want Ukrainian people to determine their own future. You're gonna have a lot of very happy people here spent a lot of -- over the past few days. Where ethnic Russian -- -- -- who say we want to be a part of Russia. We are Russians in my Ukrainian passports but we want Russian we don't feel like. We are part of Ukraine to the point where yesterday when we -- these -- armed gunman stormed the parliament. -- sure -- all how on aggressive it was parliament met. A little while later while the gunman were still in the building. They voted to dismiss the government they voted to have a referendum on May twenty which -- that same day that the Ukraine -- to meet all presidential election. A referendum on the status that Crimea and which still decide what they -- -- -- for the time being yes it is technically part of Ukraine it is an autonomous province. But there are many people here who would like -- he would go back to were struck. And it not be part of Russia -- certainly more dependent but it doesn't know. Out of me ask you this because you brought up Yanukovych the president. Ukraine there where do we know about his whereabouts in the statement that he may just recently. It's been really remarkable story -- led you -- fled the capital yet last Friday. Which was just a day after the bloodiest day. And -- in in this uprising scores dead more than seventy people -- he fled. To the eastern part of the country which has traditionally been his power base. And since last Friday a week ago he really fell off the map there had been reports that issue -- -- -- Crimea which. Numerous times this is a very pro Russian part of the country where you would have. Traditional support in late last night. We got word that he was going to speak today. In Russia and he didn't pop up he resurfaced for the first time a week in a southern city in Russia called -- -- undaunted. He gave a lengthy press conference in which he says he is still. The president. Ukraine -- -- rejected his impeachment. He said that he fled their use sport strictly because of threats but has personal security. And then you'll go back. To Ukraine wants. It security can be guaranteed he has asked Russia acted to guarantee his security Moscow has says it has said it will. But I gotta play there there are not too many people here who want to see him back in Ukraine are not too many people who are clamoring for him to be president again. Pro Russia or not. So good good good cynic in me might say it -- -- -- delusional statement that he gave. Two reporters. In that southern Russian city. Rick let me ask you about this that if you look at what the president said -- -- brief statement right there. In regards to the US Russian relationship was the home stronger with a strong enough. Regarding the response that the activity it's it's -- in the crime rate in the Crimea region. There was a whole lot packed into a very short statement there Dan I. First of all the message to Putin and to Russia came onto different levels one was that kind of an appeal to the to the emotions into the prided say look -- be spoiling a great Olympics essentially. If you went in there and intervened in a big way and that I think came out of a bigger hammer which is that there will be consequences. If -- Russian military involvement. And then I think a way out of it as I think -- correctly points out talking about self determination right now in Crimea that is a way out of this that is a way I think if you took a vote right now. In Crimea and you you decide you would you want to be with the Ukraine is going to be with the Russians I think that would end this. And -- may be a way to to pull something positive out of the a very tense situation right now so I think. It was carefully crafted you know as the president doesn't take any questions he cuts it -- he does exactly the message he wants the delivery here even if -- -- -- -- -- -- along the way I think it is important knowing that the -- watching this knowing that -- is watching every word and every move the United States to say look. Don't go too far here guys because there is a way out. A brief statement made on Friday afternoon ABC's political director Rick Klein in Washington DC Washington latest on that Rick thank you for that. And also ABC's outs Mark Clark in Crimea as well -- think -- of course safe travels as well. A complete report right here on abcnews.com. On the escalating situation. In the Crimea -- ridge region in Ukraine for now I'm down at their New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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