Russia currently has 15,000 troops in Crimea, Yegor Pyvovarov, spokesman for the Ukraine mission at the U.N. said ahead of a Saturday session of the Security Council.
Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, condemned the Russian parliamentary vote to allow troops to be deployed into the Crimea region.
"But the troops are already there, and their number is increasing every hour," he said during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Ukraine is calling on the U.N. Security Council to stand in unity against aggression by Russia in the Crimea, Ukraine's ambassador to the U.N. said.
Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said that Russia had rejected an offer of direct talks on the situation, but he added, "There is still a chance."
Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaliy Churkin said his country disagreed with the terms of the agreement made by Ukraine at the open session.
"It's a difficult situation in the past few hours," he said, adding that there were forces coming from Kiev attempting to overthrow the local governments in eastern Ukraine and Crimea and establish new ones that would enforce power from the new provisional government.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power says international observers should be sent immediately to the Crimea from the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"Actions speak louder than words," Power said. "it is time for the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine to end."
NATO will hold meetings on the situation in Ukraine on Sunday, NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Twitter.
The Kremlin released a statement claiming that President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama about "the provocative, criminal acts of the ultranationalists in Ukraine who are encouraged by the authorities in Kiev."
"Putin also stressed the presence of real dangers to the lives and the health of Russians who are currently present on Ukrainian territory. "
"Putin stressed that in case of further spreading of the violence on the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia reserves the right to defend its interests and the Russian-speaking people who live there. "
It’s unclear if Obama called Putin or if Putin called Obama.
A senior White House official confirms President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Putin have spoken about the Ukraine crisis.
A White House statement on President Barack Obama's conversation with Russian President Vldaimir Putin:
President Obama spoke for 90 minutes this afternoon with President Putin of Russia about the situation in Ukraine. President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act. The United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory.
The United States calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. We have consistently said that we recognize Russia’s deep historic and cultural ties to Ukraine and the need to protect the rights of ethnic Russian and minority populations within Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has made clear its commitment to protect the rights of all Ukrainians and to abide by Ukraine’s international commitments, and we will continue to urge them to do so.
President Obama told President Putin that, if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As a member of both organizations, Russia would be able to participate. President Obama urged an immediate effort to initiate a dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, with international facilitation, as appropriate. The United States is prepared to participate.
President Obama made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community. In the coming hours and days, the United States will urgently consult with allies and partners in the UN Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum. The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8. Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.
The people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future. President Obama has directed his Administration to continue working urgently with international partners to provide support for the Ukrainian government, including urgent technical and financial assistance. Going forward, we will continue consulting closely with allies and partners, the Ukrainian government and the International Monetary Fund, to provide the new government with significant assistance to secure financial stability, to support needed reforms, to allow Ukraine to conduct successful elections, and to support Ukraine as it pursues a democratic future.
Here is U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statement on speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin:
I have just spoken directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone.
I told him that I am closely following the serious and rapidly unfolding developments in Ukraine.
I am gravely concerned by some of the recent events in particular those that could in any way compromise the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
It is crucial to restore calm and proceed to an immediate de-escalation of the situation.
Cool heads must prevail and dialogue must be the only tool in ending this crisis.
I appealed to President Putin to urgently engage in direct dialogue with the authorities in Kyiv.
More on Congress calling on the White House to take action:
Speaking Saturday, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said economic and travel sanctions must be considered.
The travel sanctions could be imposed broadly or against specific Russians who often travel to the United States, said Schiff, a member of the Intelligence Committee and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.
“These would be pretty provocative steps,” which might “poison our relationship pretty significantly” with Russia, he said.
Former presidential adviser David Gergen says there are no indications the United States or European nations would take military action if Russia continues to move into Crimea.
While sanctions would be troublesome to Putin, they would be “small potatoes” compared to keeping control of Crimea, a region which is historically and militarily tied to Russia, he said.
Gergen also noted that Putin has “some cards to play” in negotiations with the United States. For instance, Obama has worked hard to reduce nuclear threats in the world, including in Iran, and has often enjoyed Putin's cooperation.
Losing that cooperation would hurt Obama’s legacy.
“Those are heavy, heavy, big cards to play,” Gergen said.
After the security council meeting, British Ambassador to the U.N. Lyall Grant again criticized Russia’s response to questions during the meeting.
“We see no justification for the Russian military action over the last 48 hours,” Grant said.
The White House has released a statement on President Barack Obama's conversations with French and Canadian leaders today:
"President Obama spoke separately this afternoon with President Hollande of France and Prime Minister Harper of Canada. The leaders agreed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and expressed their grave concern over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. The leaders agreed to continue to coordinate closely, including bilaterally, and through appropriate international organizations. The leaders affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law, and the future of Ukraine and its democracy. The leaders also pledged to work together on a package of support and assistance to help Ukraine as it pursues reforms and stabilizes its economy."
After the Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power repeated President Barack Obama’s message that Russian President Vladimir Putin should pull Russian troops out of Crimea and engage in dialogue.
“Military force will never be the solution in this crisis,” she said.
She also noted Russia often talks about the sanctity of its borders during U.N. discussions.
“Today, Russia would do well to heed its own warnings,” Power said.
Wondering why Ukraine is so important politically? Here's why:
Stephen Cohen, a professor of Russian studies and history at New York University, says the situation in Ukraine is “a crisis of historic proportions” and the beginning of a new cold war.
Russia mainly fears the expansion of NATO into Ukraine. “This is what this is about from Russia’s point of view,” Cohen said.
He noted the economic package ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych rejected included clauses that would have allowed NATO involvement in Ukraine. That rejection sparked the street protests that started the turnover in Ukraine government.
Christopher Hill, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Macedonia, Iraq and Poland, agreed that Russia is “very worried about NATO being there.”
He said Ukraine has always been “a delicate balance of East and West.” The situation calls for proactive thinking by the United States.
“We have to understand that when you get right up against the Russian border … you have to really think about those kinds of moves,” Hill said.
Christopher Hill, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Macedonia, Iraq and Poland, says sanctions against Russia could alienate one of the world superpowers.
“That means 20 years of trying to work with Russia down the drain,” he said.
Hill said he doesn’t know if Russia will stay in Crimea. If the nation is dismembered, the western part of Ukraine would “gallop” to align with Europe, which Russia doesn’t want, Hill said.
Russia may be hoping the new Ukraine government will form a government that respects Russia.
“The hope is that Kiev will understand Russia has an interest in this,” Hill said. “It is a time for diplomacy. ... We really need to stay in touch with Moscow. We need to really step up the diplomacy right now.”