Dozens of armed men seized control of government buildings in the Ukrainian region of Crimea on Thursday and raised Russia’s flag, according to multiple reports.
The peninsula has an ethnic Russian majority.
The protestors’ move came the same day 150,000 Russian troops were ordered to Ukraine’s border for a military exercise.
"I'm concerned about developments in #Crimea. I urge #Russia not to take any action that can escalate tension or create misunderstanding," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted Thursday.
The United States warned on Wednesday any “outside actors” should “respect” Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryWords are not enough — US must support Christians who survived genocide in Iraq What’s Russia’s real power? The power of the purse Can Ivanka Trump and Al Gore unite against climate change? MORE issued a stern warning to Russia as it ramped up its military operations.
"For a country that has spoken out so frequently ... against foreign intervention in Libya, in Syria, and elsewhere, it would be important for them to heed those warnings as they think about options in the sovereign nation of Ukraine," Kerry told a small group of reporters at the State Department, according to Reuters.
The State Department also announced it’s considering $1 billion in loan guarantees and other funding to help strengthen Ukraine’s economy, now on the verge of collapse.
Ukraine’s parliament, meanwhile, is expected to begin forming a new government on Thursday, nearly a week after the opposition overthrew Yanokovych’s administration.