WASHINGTON - President Obama expressed concerns on Friday over reports that Russian troops are meddling in Ukraine as armed men took up positions in Ukraine's Crimean region.
"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movement taken by the Russian Federation inside Ukraine," Obama said.
Earlier on Friday, Ukraine's interior ministry accused Russia of a "military invasion and occupation" on Friday, saying Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports on its strategic Crimea peninsula.
Ukraine's parliament also sent an urgent plea to the U.N. Security Council for a meeting on the crisis and adopted a resolution demanding Russia halt actions it says are aimed at splitting Crimea from the rest of the country.
Ukraine's autonomous province of Crimea is about 50% Russian speaking and many though not all say they identify more with Russia than Ukraine.
Russian jets this week have increased patrols along the Ukrainian border, and thousands of Russians troops have held military exercises near the Russia-Ukraine border, raising concerns about Russian interference.
The White House on Thursday urged Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty amid festering events unfolding in Ukraine's Russian- speaking Crimea peninsula.
"We strongly support Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Carney said. "We expect other nations to do the same. And so we are closely watching Russia's military exercises along the Ukrainian border."