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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  February 28, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PST

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say? >> they need to ask questions about whose forces are moving into crimea. they have denied that it is their forces and intelligence is telling them that and then he has to say that and then direct what needs to be done next, jim. >> that's it. our coverage conditions with "the situation room." we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. we're following the growing crisis in ukraine where tensions are rapidly escalating and the president of the united states, president obama is about to walk into the white house briefing room to make a major statement. the ukrainian government is accusing russian black sea forces of trying to seize two airports in crimea and cutting off communications between the russian majority region and the rest of ukraine. russian troops also are set to
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have surrounded the state television facility, some are calling it, and i'm quoting it now, an armed invasion of the country. all of this coming just six days after the ukrainian president, viktor yanukovych, was driven from the capital following deadly demonstrations against this pro-moscow president. let's go to our senior white house correspondent jim askos sta. explain this for us. >> president obama was supposed to be out here 15 minutes ago so he's running late. he was expected to be at the democratic committee at this hour, wolf, laying out his midterm strategy for his party. instead he'll be here in the briefing room talking about ukraine. we've been pressing white house officials as to what is going on on the ground in crimea, just who those forces are with the black insignia on and while
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there are assumptions that it may be russian forces but it will be interesting to hear what the president has to say about that. the united states has been warning russia that it would be a grave mistake to intervene militarily in the ukraine and if that is indeed what has happened here, and president obama said they are not going to engage in a chess board. he's going to be using the power of his presidency, the force of his oval office to worn russia about what their move should or should not be. we've asked jay carney, what are the u.s. options if russia has indeed intervened militarily earlier today at the briefing at the white house, wolf, jay
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carney did not have a good answer for that. they are not going to speculate what the options are. if russia has crossed a line and invaded. >> as we wait for the president, i want to just play the remarks we heard from the united states am boss for to the united states nations, samantha power. she had some very strong words. >> the united states stays with crimea region. we are disturbed about the deployments into the crimea. the united states calls on russia to pull back the military forces that are being built up in the region to stand down and to allow the ukrainian people the opportunity to pursue their own government, create their own defendant tea and to do so freely without intimidation or
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fear. >> it's not every day on a late friday afternoon that the president unscheduled makes a decision to go into the briefing room and make a statement on a situation around the world this time the escalating tensions in the ukraine. jim sciutto, we're seconds away from the president of the united states. this is a big deal. no question. they are observing movement of russian troops on the ground. you don't need a full-scale georgia-style invasion for russia to do military intervention. you can have black ops and that's what appears to be happening there. including this morning when american lieders got they warned them not to make moves that
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could be misininterpreted as military intervention. and we're looking at a relationship in peril here. >> it's certainly reminding me of -- and i covered the cold war -- of what was going on then. >> absolutely. more anxiety than the day before and they are watching these movements. still, these are worrisome developments and you get that sense from the feeling and the comments. >> here comes the president of the united states. >> good afternoon, everybody. over the last several days the united states has been responding to events as they unfold in the ukraine.
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throughout this crisis we have been clear about one fundamental principle. the ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. together with our european allies we have encouraged the russians to stabilize their country, forth a broad-based government and move to elections this spring. i also spoke several days ago with president putin and my administration has been in daily communication with russian officials. we made clear that they can be part of an international community's effort to support the success of a united ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of the ukraine and the international community but also in russia's interests. and military movements taken by the russian federation inside of the ukraine. russia has an historic relationship with ukraine,
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including a military facility in crimea. but any violation of the sovereignty would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of ukraine, russia, or europe. it would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the ukrainian people. it would be a violation of russia's commitment to respect the sovereignty and borders of ukraine and of international laws. days after the world came to russia for the olympic games that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world and the united states will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in ukraine. the events over the past several months remind us of the divisions but the ukrainian people have also reminded us
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that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future. right now the situation remains very flew bid. vice president biden spoke with the prime minister of the ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment we stand for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of ukraine. i also commend the restraint and it the commitment to uphold its international obligations. we'll work closely with our european allies and continue to work closely with the russian government and continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the american people informed as events develop. thanks very much. >> so there he is. a short statement from the president. only three or four minutes but a strong statement effectively warning russia, don't, don't
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intervene in the domestic matters of the ukraine, an independent country. there will be consequences, the country suggesting if the russians were to do so. the u.s. is deeply concerned and he does confirm that russian troops right now are inside ukraine. he says the situation remains very fluid. but it's clearly a dangerous situation as we watch it unfold. we have our correspondent standing by here in washington as well as in the ukraine and moscow. jim sciutto is our chief national security correspondent. you heard those strong words from the president. as i said earlier, it's not every day, the end of the day, end of the week, late friday afternoon the president decides to change his schedule, go into the briefing room and in effect each a strong warning to moscow. >> no question. from the highest level now. but when you look at the content of this warning, it's very similar to the warnings that other officials, secretary kerry and hagel have been making over these past few days. we are deeply concerned about the events on the ground.
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any violation of the ukraine sovereignty will be deeply destabilizing. but those warnings have been made but clearly not heeded by the russian side if we believe the events on the ground are proceeding the way they appear to be proceeding. he also lays out his vision for ukraine. stabilizing the country, a broad base government with russia as a part. that's been on the table for some time and is clearly not satisfying the russian side. they don't want to play a part. they want leadership on this. i have to wonder what effect that's going to have on -- >> it's one thing for the secretary of defense or secretary of state or the vice president to make a strong statement like that. it's another thing when the president of the united states does it themselves. barbara starr is at the pentagon. i guess the bottom line question, and it's a simple question. i don't know if the answer is simple, barbara, has russia invaded ukraine? >> well, that is the question. has putin made his move to take over crimea? what i can tell you, wolf, the u.s. assessment at this point is
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that this arrival of russian military forces -- and that is what they are calling it -- the u.s. assessment is that it was an uncontested arrival. that may be a very sympathetic population in crimea that was quite willing to support these russian troops landing there. what this has done now is it has given russia three legs on which to operate. perhaps several hundred ground troops, perhaps as many as 2,000. the u.s. has no reason to doubt those claims. so they have ground troops, they have air transport. they came in by airplane and they have the naval forces at sevastopol, essentially the same as u.s. marines providing the third leg. the question will be, of course, where does russia go from here? what do they do next? right now, it looks like they have established their base of operations for crimea.
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the u.s. i think a really important thing here is the u.s. assessment that russian military forces have landed uncontested is very key. this is not a conflict in this area of crimea with the russian-supported population. so where this all goes now remains to be seen. how quickly will opposition to the russian presence develop in crimea? how long will the russians stay? what will they do next? how and when or will they even leave. wolf? >> let's go to crimea. right now, diana is our reporter on the scene. so what's going on over there. are these russian troops being warmly welcomed by the russians speaking ukrainian in crimea or is there some sort of resistance? >> reporter: wolf, we have no confirmation that there are 2,000 troops that have arrived on crimean soil.
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in fact, it's being told that that is a rumor. we have seen masked, armed gunmen surrounding these facilities but they wear no military insignia. they do not respond when you ask them where they are from, whether they are russian. they are highly organized, highly armed. it's therefore hard to believe that they are anything other than russian personnel. we were talking to jim sciutto earlier. he said they look like they are special ops guys from russia. to be honest, wolf, they look very young. i've been looking at their faces. they look very young. it is difficult to believe that they are anything other than russian military personnel or in the pay of the russians because of their organization. they have been fairly peaceful. they haven't halted airport operations. they are now surrounding the main state broadcaster here in
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crimea. the direct general told us they were doing that for the broadcasters' protection. remember, this is a very pro-russian part of the ukraine. the majority are ethnic russian and it's not a message that will sit well with the majority of people in crimea who do not feel that their interests are represented. >> stand by, diane. i want to go to kiev right now. ian lee is there. that's the capital of the ukraine. i sense there's a totally different attitude of the russian as opposed to what we're hearing in kiev, there's a difference attitude in crimea given the hostility, if you will, ian, to what russia is up to? >> reporter: well, that's right, wolf. as far as the officials here are concerned, they are saying that
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the russians have gone in militarily to the crimea to try to annex it. this is what we're hearing from officials here and the acting president, alexander has said not only have they gone in, they are trying to take over civil administration buildings as well as communication buildings they are saying that it's an invasion. the ukrainian government is saying that military intervention by the russians is taking place right now. they are saying at least 11 military helicopters have come in as well as roughly ten airplanes flying into the area. this all coming from the governor had the here. they see this as a somewhat of an invasion, although they are saying that they are military is
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showing restraint and do not engage in any provocation that comes their way. >> the president said there will be costs to any military intervention in ukraine. ian, stand by. barbara starr is getting more information at the pentagon. what are you hearing, barbara? >> diana is absolutely right, of course. the intelligence is very sketchy for the united states at the moment. these are assessments that the u.s. is coming to. they do absolutely believe it's russian military forces that landed in crimea. how many, their intentions, what their operational orders are at this point, this is something that the u.s. is still trying to figure out. i can tell you, all of this began in washington early today with top level meetings with the intelligence community trying to come to some understanding of what the russians are up to and trying to cope with the fact that the intelligence is very
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sketchy and the u.s. intelligence committee is watching this unfold on television just as we are. for all they know, more planes could land at any minute. there is not the kind of real-time intelligence that they need so the information still tentative. russian military troops, how many, their intentions are still to be determined. >> barbara, stand by. everyone stand by. we have our correspondents here in washington and kiev and crimea. we're watching what is going on here in the united states. obama moments ago we heard from the president. we'll take a quick break. we'll resume our breaking news coverage right after this. here's the president. >> and indeed the united states will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in ukraine. [ male announcer ] this is the cat that drank the milk... [ meows ] ...and let in the dog that woke the man who drove to the control room [ woman ] driverless mode engaged. find parking space.
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once again, we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. we're watching important breaking news unfold. serious tensions erupting. tensions not only between the ukraine, the government in the ukraine and russia but also tensions between russia, the european union, and the united states. only moments ago president obama went into the white house briefing room unscheduled and issued a very strong statement to the russians noting that the u.s. is deeply concerned that russian troops are now inside ukraine. that would be in crimea, said this is deeply destabilizing and there will be costs of any military intervention in the ukraine. the president saying the situation right now remains very fragile. our chief white house correspondent jim acosta was in the briefing room, still is in the briefing room. it's not every day, jim, when the president of the united states issues a warning like this. >> no, that's right, wolf. this was pretty hastily arranged. this came very last-minute. the president is on his way to
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the democratic national committee. and taking away from what we heard from the president a few moments ago is just the caution that was in his voice, the caution that was in his words. he talked about reports of military intervention, reports of forces on the ground and in ukraine and in crimea. he talked about how it would be a violation if this had indeed taken place. it seems like at this point the white house is still very much examining what is taking place on the ground here. as we are all trying to figure out what is happening in crimea, what is happening in the ukraine, what the russians are up to. it seems the white house is watching television and doing the same thing. making those same assessments, contacting officials, going through a diplomatic channels trying to figure out what is going on. you heard the president saying that he spoke to president putin a few days ago and they had a long discussion that went on for an hour but since then u.s. officials have been in touch with russian officials and the vice president has been in touch with the prime minister of ukraine and they are trying to
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move this process forward. you can tell from the president's words that he would obviously very much prefer a diplomatic resolution but at this point it seems very ad hoc. the president sort of following events on the grounds and responding to them in real-time, wolf. >> here's what the president said just a few moments ago. listen to this. >> we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the russian federation inside ukraine. russia has an historic relationship with ukraine, including cultural and economic ties and a military facility in crimea. but any violation of ukraine's sovereignty would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of ukraine, russia, or europe. it would represent a profound interference and matters that must be determined by the ukrainian people. it would be a clear violation of russian's commitment to respect
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the independence, sovereignty and borders of ukraine. >> all of our reporters are standing by to continue our special coverage here in "the situation room." we'll go back to crimea, we'll go to kiev, moscow. we have our reporters here in washington. much more of the breaking news right after this. your eyes really are unique. in fact, they depend on a unique set of nutrients. [ male announcer ] that's why there's ocuvite to help protect your eye health. as you age, your eyes can lose vital nutrients. ocuvite helps replenish key eye nutrients. ocuvite is a vitamin made just for your eyes from the eye care experts at bausch + lomb. ocuvite has a unique formula
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bulldog: oh boy! television announcer: on now. ♪ mattress discounters echos of the cold war happening right now in ukraine. russian troops have moved into crimea. specifically, only moments ago,
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the president of the united states unscheduled went into the white house briefing room to issue a strong warning to russia. there will be costs, the president says, of any military intervention in ukraine. let's go to crimea. diana magmay is on the ground in crimea for us. most of the people that live in crimea speak russian, they are sympathetic to russia right now. >> reporter: absolutely. and they don't feel that their interests are represented by this new government. and i was at the airport in the capital where it was being protected or patrolled by these armed gunmen that i was talking about and they said that they were trying to make sure that no radicals or extremists from kiev came to try and disrupt the peace in crimea.
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if you can call it peace. because yesterday armed gunmen seized the parliament building and invited in pro-russian mps who was dismissed in the previous administration and there are certainly turmoils here in a very ethnic clee religiously, politically mixed up tiny peninsula here in the black sea where you have, as i said, a pro -- an ethnic russian majority but you also have ukrainians here and a small muslim crimea grouping all of whom want different things. so it is a real hotbed and right now the epicenter. >> russian troops are in crimea right now. fareed zakaria, the host of "gps" is joining us. fareed, to put it plubluntly, t is an extremely complicated
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situation that we're watching unfold, isn't it? >> it's extremely complicated. let's remember when we think of the ukraine, the western part of the crane that is the part that we've been hearing from, kiev, was historically poland or ruled by the hungarian but they were in the west. they wanted to just return to europe which is where they had been for hundreds of years. crimea was part of russia until 1954. so this really is when people talk about a divided country, it doesn't get more divided. you mentioned russian troops. remember, there are already russian troops in ukraine because russia's black sea fleet is located there. so russia doesn't have to send troops there. they are already there and they could be a lot of masked gunmen that are russian soldiers or in some way coordinating with russian soldiers. russia has so many ways short of invasion to be involved and to make trouble and in many parts
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of ukraine, though not the majority, they do have the support of the local population. >> fareed, when the president of the united states, as he just did a few minutes ago in the white house, he says there will be costs of any military intervention in ukraine. you can define what those costs are but nobody thinks that the u.s. or eu ornate toe would get involved militarily what is going on in ukraine. what is he talking about? financial sanctions, if you will, political sanctions against a formal military intervention in ukraine? >> i think the president was wise to leave it vague because you never in international relations want to specify in advance what you're going to do. you want to leave all your options on the table but you're right, wolf, probably there isn't a military option here for the united states or for europe but there are economic sanctions. there is a g-8 meeting coming up. remember, the g-8 was the richest countries in the world
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invited russia to be part of that exclusive club because it surrendered during the cold war, became part of the international community. that could be something i would very seriously consider whether russia's membership in the g-8 could be suspended. there are those kinds of acts. russia very much wants to be considered a leading power. and if it were to send troops in in an overt invasion, i think russia should be suspended from the g-8. >> so i take it you haven't yet concluded, far read, that russia has actually invaded ukraine, the word invade obviously a very sensitive word? >> i think it remains so unclear. things are fluid. as i say, they have so many mechanisms. russian intelligence is deeply active in all of ukraine and particularly in crimea. but i don't get the sense that they have the -- the reports don't suggest that yet and the fact that the russians are
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categorically denying it suggest that there is -- what is going on now is very low grade activity. as you know, there was one report about 2000 russian troops coming on an aircraft but that's not been confirmed, even though it was rumored for several hours and it does not, again, right now appear to be true. >> stand by, ffareed. the russians have got some sort of explanation of why there are at least some russian troops in crimea? >> that's right. they said that this movement of troops falls within the agreement that russia has with ya ukraine. they are saying that this is legal. they are coming in under the auspice of their agreement. they are creating a narrative short of an invasion. i got some guidance earlier today and someone said to me -- i asked the question about, is
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russia planning a georgia-like invasion -- >> a few years ago they did invade the neighboring georgia. >> that's right. around the olympics of 2008. the course sasource said to me, look for something that large of a scale. something that could easily -- >> fareed said they've already got the black fleet. they've all right got people there. so as the u.n. ambassador was saying, we're not invading anybody. we have a bilateral agreement. we are allowed to be there and that is their story and they are sticking to it. i mean -- >> the government in kiev doesn't accept that. >> no. no, it does not. and the president today, by the way, was careful to go out of his way to commend the restraint on the part of ukraine and sort of said, okay, good, you're
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being restrained. we appreciate that. but then sent the shot across the bow and said no invasion here. but what can the president do at this point? maybe expel russia from the g-8 but economic sanctions? i mean, it seems that there aren't any real good solutions here or any immediate solutions. >> we're going to hear right now from an influential member of the united states senate. we'll speak in a moment with senator john mccain. when we come back, we'll ask him, what should the united states be doing right now?
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i spoke several days ago with president putin and my administration has been in daily communication with russian officials and we've made clear that they can be part of an international community's effort to support the success of a united ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of the ukraine and international community but also in russia's interest. >> president obama only moments ago warning there will be costs of any military intervention in the ukraine. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're continuing with the breaking news coverage. joining me now is senator john mccain. senator, you've been watching this situation unfold very, very closely. to me it sort of has echos of the battle days of the cold war but i'm anxious to get your assessment. >> i think it certainly adds those echos as far as vladimir
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putin is concerned. all of his actions for years have indicated his desire to rebuild the russian empire, the so-called near abroad balance particulars invasion of georgia, mald maldova. it's clear that maybe the president has been naive about vladimir putin and his ambitions and we're seeing the commitment, an absolute belief that ukraine is part of russia and he's not going to let it go and that is something we are going to have to understand in our relations with vladimir putin. >> i know you've been briefed about what is going on. in your opinion, is there an invasion that has already started? in other words, what's the latest information you're getting about russian troops in
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crimea or other parts of ukraine? >> especially ukraine, troops have come in, moving out of a very vital base of sevastopol into the area. they have taken control of the two airports and these people are paramilitary. as you discussed earlier, it's not going to be russian tanks. it's going to be russian special forces, special operations people, fsb that will basically be taking over the country. and when the president said that he told putin there would be costs, i hope he was specific in some of those costs because there are a number of costs. you were talking to the panel before and maybe i could mention a couple of them. one of them would be -- one would be holding those who are
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responsible for this -- responsible for the actions that are taking place. another would be economic sanctions that would be far-reaching. another would be to restart our missile defense capabilities in the czech republic that we canceled. so there's a number of other actions that we could take and obviously we're not going to be sending troops anywhere or armed conflict but when vladimir putin looks around the world, sees what happens in syria when the red line turned pink and there was no action, our acquiesce sense of georgia, all of the actions that have to do and indicate a decline of the united states of america, i think he's
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emboldened and he's acting. >> hold on for a moment, senator, jim sciutto has got a question for you as well. jim, go ahead. >> senator, one thing we have been attempting to do day in and day out here is explain to americans what america's national security interests are specifically to the ukraine. clearly a country in the middle of europe in the midst of internal conflict, instability bad for our neighbors, our good friends in europe. but how would you explain the direct connection to the u.s. national security from the situation in the ukraine? >> well, i think the same way that you would explain that afghanistan's independence, when they were invaded by russia back during the carter administration. it's in our national security interest not to see a country take over another sovereign nation. it is in our national security interest to respond not militarily to acts that are
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clearly out of the boundaries of accepted normal international behavior. it is also a situation where the people of ukraine obviously the overwhelming majority of them, although maybe not in crimea, do not wish to be part of russia and want to be part of europe. so it has to do with our basic values and our basic principles and observance of international law. >> gloria borger, go ahead. >> senator, you just talked about the president and the red line that he drew with regards to syria that you believe was blurred and do you believe that there's a cause and effect here with putin and the way he is behaving? >> i'm sure you saw the pictures of president putin and president obama sitting next to each other at their last meeting. >> yeah. >> the fact is that president
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putin does not have a great deal of respect for president obama. they do not -- they have a very chilly relationship. putin has made it clear many times he wants to restore the role of russia, which means the near abroad, the countries that i just mentioned, including maldova and the ukraine and the ukraine is the crown jewel of that. so when putin sees the president of the united states say we're going to act if they cross a red line and we don't and when he sees the president of the united states saying, tell vladimir that when i'm re-elected i'm going to be more flexible, when we are pushing the, quote, reset button, i think vladimir putin being the old kgb that he is, does not believe that there's a penalty for this behavior will be very severe. the germans need to play a greater role in condemning this situation as well. >> so what do you mean, senator -- and i want you to be
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specific when you say the president of the united states, in your assessment -- i think you used the phrase -- a bit naive when it comes to the ukraine. >> i think as far as putin is concerned is where i think he's been naive. i think he felt he could establish a cordial relationship with a person who would not behave in a manner which we have seen vladimir putin behave, and that is a person who has committed to the restoration of what he believes is the greatness of russia. and again, i repeat, he said that the worst event of the 20th century was when soviet union broke up. and that's why he has consistently acted in ways of pressuring what he calls the near abroad. that means we have to have a realistic approach to vladimir putin's intentions and it doesn't mean reigniting the cold war. it doesn't mean putting american boots on the ground but it means
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taking actions that are firm and steadfast and not thinking -- having any illusions about what putin is all about. >> what do you say to the ambassador that have been signed over the years between ukraine and russia? >> well, as you know, it wasn't until 19 -- i believe 1994 that ukraine -- '84 when khrushchev allowed crimea to be part of the ukraine and he briefs he has a relationship that would allow them to restore stability in the ukraine. but the fact is -- in crimea. the fact is, crimea is an integral part of ukraine and for
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them to take over the way they are doing is in violation of any international standard. >> john mccain is the senator from arizona. senator, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you for having me on. >> all right. we're going to continue to follow the breaking news, important breaking news. serious tensions erupting, including tensions between the united states and russia over reports that russian troops are now in crimea, which, of course, is part of the ukraine. we'll continue the breaking news coverage right after this. no matter how busy your morning you can always do something better for yourself.
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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 that there will be costs for any military intervention in ukraine. >> the president of the united states saying there will be costs, not specifying what those costs will be. we continue to follow the breaking news out of ukraine. reports are that russian troorps on the ground in crimea which is part of ukraine. joining us on the phone right now is retired u.s. nato supreme commander general wesley clark. what do you think, general clark? what are the options right now for the u.s. in a rather tense situation that's unfolding right now? >> ukraine is part of the partnership for peace. they have the right under partnership for peace to demand nato consultation. so if ukraine were to demand
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nato consultation in brussels at the north atlanticouncil, it could convene tonight and could issue a strong warning. nato could send ambassadors, personnel to kiev. nato could send a commission in. they could take strong measures that would be deterrent in nature without puts troops on the ground. and this would send a strong signal to putin. >> that would be a dramatic escalation, though, of this crisis if nato started to get directly involved in ukraine, wouldn't it, general? >> under partnership for peace, nations that are members of partnership for peace are allowed to petition nato. it's up to nato to accept that petition. but this is a question of whether nato can act strongly at the early stage to head off a crisis or whether we'd like to see it unfold.
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the consequences of this if it unfolds would be quite significant. what's going to happen, this is phase one. phase two will be lots of disorder in ukraine and then spreading of these russian paramilitary troops to seize key objectives throughout ukraine and then the president -- the deposed president of ukraine will ask for russian assistance to maintain order, then he'll come back in and take charge. this will have a huge impact on nato members in the baltic states, in romania, in bulgaria. what they see is exactly the shadow of what senator mccain was just mentioning. putin is determined to restore the soviet union. he's been angling for this for 15 years. they've known it's coming. the poles came to me as early as november 1999 warning me what putin was going to try to do. this sais all part of a long-te strategy and we have to accept
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that. >> those are strong statements your making. fareed zakaria is joining us. react to what we just heard from general clark. >> well, i agree with general clark's recommendation in the sense that i think what you need is firmness now to deter the russians from doing something militarily provocative. i think that we want to send the signal to the russians do not try to create facts on the ground by using your military, by using paramilitary forces, by using intelligence forces, but i do think that the political situation here is more complicated because there is, in crimea, as far as i can tell, an overwhelming majority of people who are ethnically russian, who see themselves in many ways as russian. remember crimea was part of russia until 1954 and was in a kind of weird way gifted to the ukraine. and so it is quite possible that were you to do a referendum in crimea, you would find that the
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vast majority of people would like to be part of russia. now when general clark was in office, when that happened in kosovo, we supported the breakaway movement. and i'm noti suggesting we do that in this case. i'm just suggesting this is a little bit more complicated because ukraine is genuinely divided. i would say there are two things we should do. one, follow general clark's advice. deter the russians from any military facts on the ground, any kind of invasion, intervention, anything. but the second is leave open the possibility that there will have to be some negotiations over exactly how the autonomy of some of these areas gets determi s d. >> general clark, go ahead. i want you to react. >> first of all, faread is exactly right that there's a very complicated situation on the ground. when nato convenes a partnership for peace hearing, russia can be
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invited to present its side. all this should be aired out in the koun sicouncils of nato, ass possible. my guess is russia will refuse to come. russia should certainly be invited and ukraine should make its case and these very issues about ethnic conversation and what people want should be aired out. russia has legitimate interests in ukraine. they do have people there in a base. that base has been secured. but russia and putin are going to use this as pretext for action. it's clear that people that took over those ministries some simferopol are not street thugs. that's their method of operation. so we can't be naive. i think you have to set a firm position, you have to get nato involved where i think doing this to individual countries. as senator mccain said, germany
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has to take a strong individual stand in addition to what it says through nato. germany's softness on this issue was one of the reasons why it happened. >> general clark, i'm going to interrupt you for a moment. stand by. we're going to continue the breaking news. happening now, a "situation room" special report. breaking news this hour, russian forces are on the move inside ukraine. are they launching a full-fledged invasion. president obama just warned moscow to avoid making a grave mistake. >> there will be costs for any military intervention in ukraine. >> so what is the russian president vladimir putin up to? i'll ask the former u.s. ambassador of russia who just step down. he's calling the situation very, very dire. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." >> this is cnn breaking news. >> and we're following the fast
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moving and rather ominous new developments and the growing concerns that russia is stepping over a dangerous line. cnn has learned that u.s. officials now believe russian forces have landed on ukrainian territory with troops likely numbering at least for now in the hundreds, perhaps as many as 2,000 ukrainian officials are accusing russia of what they're calling an armed invasion. we have correspondents in ukraine, in russia, here in washington. they'll bring all of us the latest on the breaking news. first, let's hear what president obama said just a little while ago about this growing crisis delivered at the white house. >> good afternoon, everybody. over the last several days, the united states has 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 with our european
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allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring. i also spoke several days ago with president putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with russian officials. and we've made clear that they can be part of an international community's effort to support the stability and success of a united ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interests of the people of ukraine and the international community but also in russia's interests. however, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the russian federation inside of ukraine. russia has a historic relationship with ukraine including cultural and economic ties and a military facility in crimea. but any violation of ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply
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destabilizing, which is not in the interest of ukraine, russia or europe. it would represent a profound interference in matters that muts be determined by the ukrainian people. it would be a clear violation of russia's commitment to respect the independence, sovereignty and borders of ukraine and of international laws. 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 that will 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 deep 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 fluid. vice president biden just spoke
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with prime minister -- the prime minister of ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the united states supports his government efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of ukraine. i also commend the government's restraint and continue to uphold its obligations. we continue to coordinate with our european allies and 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. >> very carefully scripted three-minute statement by the president of the united states expressing the deep concern of the u.s. over what's going on in ukraine right now. let's go to moscow. our own fred pleitgen is on the scene for how is this playing in the russian capital. do folks over there understand how concerned the president of the united states is right now?
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>> i'm sure that people here understand how concerned the president of the u.s. is, but at the same time you can also feel that the crimean part of ukraine is really a red line for the russians. the interesting thing has been how russia has sort of been -- i wouldn't say changing its position, but changing its rhetoric. at the beginning they were saying that they wanted a solution with the international community, that they wanted to help ukraine in this very difficult period. at the same time they've always been making clear that events in the crimea are one that they will draw a red line for themselves. it's a very important territory for the russians. it's always had -- i wouldn't say a mystic character for them, but the utmost importance to that country. at the same time they still claim that the troop movements going on there are within the framework that they have for the military base they have there. but they've also said they're going to do everything to ensure the security of the people who are of russian origin there and
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certainly at this point in time they're sending a very clear message to those people that they are with them in any way, shape or form. i can tell from having been in the crimea days ago there are people there who do want russia to intervene. clearly they're going to see this with a laughing eye, if you will. at the same time we have to keep in mind that vladimir putin is also under a lot of pressure here in russia to take a very tough stance on the crimean issue. there's a lot of people here who want intervention because of this, who want -- who are very angry at what's been going on in the ukraine and who clearly say that something needs to be done by the russians. and if the russians are are in the crimea in any way get into any sort of trouble with the government in kiev, it's something that will be seen as a weakness of vladimir putin if he doesn't do anything to help them. >> fred pleitgen is in moscow. let's go crimea. you just heard fred say, diana,
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that a lot of the people in crimea, they see themselves as ethnic russians. they're very sympathetic to russia. clearly there's a split between the people in crimea, which is part of ukraine, and the government in kiev, which is condemning russian involvement. >> very clear split. and in are a way, wolf, what you have had in crimea in the last couple of days is almost a mirror image of what we saw in ukraine over the last three months. they ousted their pro-russian government and replaced it with an eu westward looking government. yesterday armed gunmen stormed the parliament, invited in pro-russian mps who swiftly got rid of the previous administration and appointed a pro-russian leader who is supported by the majority of this region who are ethnic russians. and when i talked to people at the airport in simferopol today, it is being guarded, if you
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will, by a pro-russian self-guarded militia who say they're trying to defend their region from any kind of extremist elements, bandits who might be coming from the maydan to disrupt what they think is their natural affiliation with russian. it is a deep affiliation, cultural, economic affiliation, people here are widely sort of said to be, you know, the remnants of the soviet union sit very deep in crimea. and you get the sense of that even when you're driving around. it is difficult to piece together what exactly is going on on the ground. i have not seen russian troops who i could definitively tell you are russian troop, but i have seen large numbers of unidentified, masked, highly armed gunmen who are highly organized but who are trying very hard to protect their identities. thus the masks, thus using vehicles without even any number plates on them. when you talk to them, wolf,
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they're not drawn. i said, where are you from? are you russian? absolutely no comment. but there are certainly a lot of them around and they are taking control of key, strategic positions, so the airport, for example. one very important thing to mention is we heard from the main telecoms company here that they believe their telecom cables have been sabotaged, therefore there is at the moment no landline connection, no telecoms connection that they're able to provide between crimea and the rest of ukraine. these are the kinds of measures, taking logistical, bringing down telecoms that you do when you're trying to take control of a region. wolf? >> diane magnay, thanks very much. the reaction is pouring in to this escalating crisis involving the u.s., russia over ukraine. gloria borger, we're getting statements now from the speaker of the house. >> we have a statement from the speaker saying the house of
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representatives stands with the people of ukraine, and i'm quoting here, during these difficult days and remains committed to working with the administration to provide the necessary support ukraine needs right now. but earlier in the statement, he takes a little whack at the president. >> john boehner, you mean? >> the speaker does. in recent years many of our partners and allies have feared our acquiescence and in some case silence in the face of russia's systemic and persistent meddling in the affairs of its neighbors especially georgia and moldova, then goes on and says these fears have been confirmed today. >> that's similar to what we heard from senator john mccain who suggested the president is a bit naive when it comes to vladimir putin. >> interesting in boehner's statement he says we should work to maximize the economic and political pressure. he doesn't say military pressure. he specifies we're talking political, economic sanctions.
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>> as mccain himself said there's no appetite for boots on ground. >> though there are options short of that. bringing georgia closer to nato, a move that would upset russia very much. >> also restarting the missile defense capability in the czech republic. >> we know russia's reaction to that. >> we heard wesley clark, the former nato supreme allied commander says there is this partner for peace program. it's a relic from the old days. something that the parliament in ukraine could implement and seek support. >> both general clark and senator mccain talked about germany's role in all of this, and germany stepping up here and taking a stronger stand here. >> you just had the german foreign minister with john kerry -- >> do you get the sense, jim, because you're in touch with all these guys, that the u.s. intelligence community really has a handle on what's going on in crimea right now? >> listen, we know they're watching very closely, but even
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they will admit there are questions that they can't answer on things like numbers. it took them time to identify that these were indeed russian troops on the ground. we still don't have clarity on the actual numbers. you had that figure earlier in the day on 2,000, but no clarity in that as well. they're trying. they certainly have a lot of tools but hard answers are difficult to come by. >> because of these special operations forces, they're dressed in civilian outfits. they're not dressed in russian uniforms, if you will. >> exactly. >> a little bit more complicated than a traditional invasion. when the iraqis invade kuwait you could see the troops invading kuwait back in 1990. this is a little bit different than that t and harder to react to. >> the president was careful in talking about reports. >> yeah. >> of russian intervention or however he put it. i mean, i think intelligence agencies are a little wary these days of making these kind of definitive statements unless they've got the pictures. >> you won't hear the phrase
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"slam dunk." >> exactly. >> the president, gloria, he made a point, unscheduled, goes into the briefing room. issues a strong three-minute warning to the russians but then continues his schedule. right now he's at a hotel not far away from the white house for a political event with the democratic party leadership over there. he's going about his -- >> his political speep. >> he's not in the white house situation room monitoring the situation. >> that's done very much on purpose. he went over there and gave a political speech, blasted the republicans on all of their almost 50 votes to repeal obama care, but i think you don't want to rev up the american public to the extent where they presume we are on the brink of some kind of more military. >> hold on for one moment. our seep your white house correspondent jim acosta is joining us right now. what are you learning, jim? >> we're learning that the white house is basically sending a
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diplomatic warning to russia over the events of ukraine. just a few moments ago hearing from a senior administration official that the u.s. may not attend the g-8 summit in russia in sochi where the olympics were just held later on this june if russia is in ukraine. senior administration official basically telling us that it would be very hard for the united states and european allies to justify attending that summit if russian forces are in ukraine. the senior administration official going on and saying that russia has built up some good will after hosting what was a successful olympic games in sochi but at this point, the white house, the obama administration, in the words of the senior administration official, just cannot see a scenario where they would attend that g-8 summit in sochi if russian forces are in ukraine. a clear, clear diplomatic warning to the russians, wolf, something we did not hear from the president in that brief statement in the briefing room. the president was very cautious when he made that statement.
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talked about reports of forces on the ground. talked about what the consequences might be if this were to pan out to be the case. this is an indication that the white house believes there are russian forces in ukraine and they're now ratcheting things up to the next step making this diplomatic warning. >> that's a huge, huge potential moment in u.s./russian relations. until a couple days ago, he was the united states ambassador in moscow, but now he's back at stanford university. i'm just guessing, ambassador, someone would have said to you the united states is no longer absolutely positively going to be attending the g-8 summit in russia in june in sochi, you would have thought there wat wa of the question. >> well, that was 48 hours ago, yes, when i was still a government official. obviously things have changed rapidly in crimea. as you just reported from the white house, of course i think it would be nearly impossible for any of the other g-8 members
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to attend a summit in sochi, which by the way i just saw the facility as i was in sochi just three or four days ago. this is a major event for russia. they've been planning this for many years. it would be a real blow to president putin if that summit didn't come off. >> you know, if you think about it, that they're even issuing -- not necessarily on the record but on background to reporters a threat like this, it underscores accurately what you have been saying now for the past 24 hour, ambassador. this is a dire situation we are seeing. so i want you to give us some perspective. how dire it is right now? >> well, if indeed the reports are true and russian forces are coming into crimea, that's totally unacceptable. you can't invade another country and then declare part of it to be independent, especially in the heart of europe. there's no justification for this. the government in kiev did not
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threaten crimea. you've seen reports other people have talked about, what about serbia versus kosovo. that was a very different situation where the serbian threat was threatening kosovar's -- not just threatening but killing people. this is unacceptable. it's good that the president made clear to president putin that it would be unacceptable. now, what's striking to me is you haven't heard president putin say anything about who is in crimea, who are these gunmen. you haven't heard a press spokesman say anything. if they really do want to be part of the solution as foreign minister lavrov said earlier today that would be a good first step. tell us that you're not planning to invade crimea and support a secessionist movement there. >> we heard from vitaly churkin
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who suggests that there's bilateral treaty agreements between russia and ukraine that would allow russian troops to go into crimea. >> i didn't understand that at all. the collapse of the soviet union and especially an agreement in 1994 when ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees from the international community but russia and the united states in particular, i don't quite understand how that could be violated. just generally speaking president putin has been a champion of the norm of sovereignty as paramount for order and stability in the international system i hope that he remembers that plays here with respect to ukraine as well. >> i want to bring into this conversation ambassador jane harmon, of the woodrow wilson
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center here, member of the state department policy board and a u.s. congresswoman from california. when the president of the united states, jane, says that there will be costs i asul to russia of any russian military intervention in ukraine, what would those costs be? >> i think we've been spelling some of them out. one of them, interestingly ambassador mcfaul just said that russia is undermining its entire argument in syria, that it opposes any interference in the sov rety of the state. i'm not sure what this means yet. and there's a danger of calculation on all sides. and you need to be very careful, as you always are, wolf, but talking of pulling out of the g-8 with our allies is a big stick. providing economic aid as john mccain has suggested through the eu is something we should do.
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john mccain said that the u.s. will provide a billion dollars of aide. the economy of the ukraine could tank especially if russia turns off the gas spigot it's been providing subsidies for gas for the ukraine and turning that off will cost ukraine 4 to $5 billion so the scholars at the center say. john mccain has suggested something that doesn't apply here. reinstalling the missile system that's geared towards iran and doesn't have anything to do with russia. that would be provocative. providing that we're sure the current government in georgia is a responsible government, makes a lot of sense to me. we have a lot of things we can do. something to keep in mind is, according to the scholars here, a majority of ukrainians including those in east ukraine see themselves as ukrainian, not as russian, not as europeans, as ukrainians. they haven't had a decent
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government since the orange revolution. the governments they've elected have not brought economic opportunity or even stability or security to their country. and that includes the government of yulia tymoshenko. she was in prison for the wrong reasons but she was an oligarch. this government has not provided any slots for the people of east ukraine. those are the ones in the soviet crimea area. they've cut them out. i think that's a mistake. it would be much better if the government included or tried to include all the people of ukraine. that would send a strong message to russia that ukraine is ukraine, not russia. >> we are being simulcast on cnn international not only here in the united states but around the world including in russia, including crimea in ukraine. people are watching us all over the world. christiane amanpour is joining us on the phone right now. you know this story well. you covered this story for a
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long time. when jim acosta, our senior white house correspondent, says they are now seriously considering canceling u.s. involvement in the g-8 summit in sochi, russia, in june unless russian troops get out of ukraine, that is a big, big deal. >> well, it is a big deal, and it does -- i'm sure ambassador mcfaul and congresswoman harman would agree that this is yet another step on an incredibly deteriorating relationship between the united states and russia. you see the president and other top officials did not go to sochi for the olympics because of the anti-gay law and other such things and now you have a very real potential geopolitical crisis right in the heart of ukraine. and as congresswoman harman has said one of the issues that absolutely has to happen and all the scholars and diplomats have told me this, that the new interim government must make it clear to all the parts of
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ukraine that it is the government of all ukrainians and not just for those who demonstrated in kiev and other places to get rid of the yanukovych government. on the other hand, i'm also mystified by whatever legal reason russia thinks it has because we know that the budapest agreement, this 1994 agreement, shows that russia has to respect the territorial integrity of ukraine and the independence of ukraine. this is a deal that was signed along with russia, the united states, the united kingdom when the ukrainians gave up voluntarily their nuclear arsenal. and they've got a guarantee of independence and territorial integrity. clearly president putin is trying to send a loud and clear message that they want to be able to still have influence. this is probably a disaster in their view because they are losing -- you just mentioned georgia, but look at the ukraine right now. what they believe to be losing influence in what they call their near abroad, their
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god-given right for, you know, to have sort of not just russia but all the former soviet republics within their sphere of influence. and what you can see is the majority of the people in ukraine and other such places actually see their future in pro-europe and much more westernized, much more independent, much more politically free kind of society than what russia is able to deliver right now. so these things are incredibly important of maximum importance at this time right now and the united states has a huge amount of leverage, so does europe and many analysts have been saying that that leverage needs to be used and very tough diplomacy needs to be used. but on the other hand russia also needs to be part of the solution to ukraine in terms of political solution. today you had this rather defiant press conference in southern russia by former president yanukovych who again insisted he was the legitimate leader, that he'd been unfairly
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and unjustly and illegally ousted and that he would continue, as he said, to fight for ukrainian right. we don't know what that means. we're still trying to figure out who exactly are these people who have come to these airports in crimea. so it's still a very difficult situation and one that require rs a maximum amount of diplomacy, really intense diplomacy by all those with leverage and relationships with putin, with sergey lavrov, with the leadership right now, as well as the leadership in ukraine. >> hold on christiane, i want everyone to hold on. we'll continue the breaking news coverage. not every day the president of the united states goes into the white house briefing room and issues a tough warning to russia. [ tires screech ] [ car alarm chirps ] ♪
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welcome back. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. "crossfire" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you breaking news coverage on the crisis in ukraine, growing concerns of a russian invasion. stories escalating by the moment. we just heard a little while ago from jim acosta, our senior white house correspondent, the united states is now actively considering the possibility of not attending the g-8 summit in sochi, russia, in june unless the russians withdraw their troops from ukraine. don't get involved militarily. the immediate and former u.s. ambassador to russia, michael mcfaul is