LA Times World

Simferopol, Ukraine

Pro-Russian Cossacks rally outside the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol, Ukraine, on Feb. 28, 2014. (Sean Gallup / AFP/Getty Images / February 28, 2014)

KIEV, Ukraine – Authorities closed airspace over Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and at least five Russian transport planes landed at a military air strip near the regional capital late Friday, as the country’s acting president accused Moscow of trying to seize territory.

A duty officer at the Simferopol airport said that all commercial takeoffs and landings had been canceled from the Crimean regional capital’s airport for at least 24 hours. In Kiev, Oxana Ozhigova, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian capital’s Borispol airport, confirmed that flights to and from Simferopol had been suspended.

Ukrainian news media reported disruptions “by unknown persons” of telephone and Internet communications, and said that the Krym regional television station had been surrounded by gunmen.

The ominous military and security moves appeared intended to demonstrate the Kremlin’s determination to secure its leased port at Sevastopol, from which Russian naval might is projected to the world. Crimea hosts the Russian Black Sea fleet and has the largest population of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia was trying to seize territory in Crimea and “provoke us to a military conflict.”

Turchynov’s representative in Crimea, Sergei Kunitsin, later said in televised remarks that 13 Russian jumbo jets landed at Gvardeyskoye, near Simferopol, carrying an estimated 2,000 Russian paratroopers.

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Obama Warns Russia Against Crimea Invasion

Ukraine claims 2,000 troops are already on the ground in the region, after armed forces seize two airports.

US President Barack Obama arrives to speak about the situation in Ukraine in the briefing room of the White House.

Video: Obama’s Warning To Russia Over Ukraine


Russian military helicopters have been seen flying over Crimea

Russia is accused of staging an “armed invasion” in the east of the country of Ukraine. Alex Rossi reports from Crimea.

Video: Russia Accused Of ‘Armed Invasion’

US President Barack Obama has warned Moscow that any military intervention in Ukraine would be “deeply destabilising”, as Kiev claims Russian troops have invaded.

He said: “The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

“We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.”

US officials say Mr Obama may cancel plans to attend the G8 summit in June if it is proved that Russia has sent troops into the Crimea.

Masked men who call themselves members of a local militia rest at their checkpoint on a highway that connects the Black Sea Crimea peninsula to mainland Ukraine.
Men claiming to be members of a local militia at a checkpoint

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to host the economic meeting in Sochi, the site of the recent Winter Olympics.

The administration official said the US was in discussions about the summit with European partners, adding that it was difficult to see how leaders would attend if Russia had forces in Crimea.

The US has also warned that discussions on deepening trade ties with Moscow may be halted in response to any Russian aggression.

Armed men patrol outside of Simferopol airport in Crimea.
Armed men outside Simferopol airport

Mr Obama’s warnings come after Ukraine’s Acting President appealed to Russia to stop “naked aggression” in the Crimean peninsula amid claims from Kiev 2,000 Russian troops have invaded.

Oleksandr Turchynov said: “I personally appeal to President Putin to immediately stop military provocation and to withdraw from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea … It’s a naked aggression against Ukraine.”

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