MOSCOW -- Russia’s upper house of parliament unanimously approved a request by President Vladimir Putin to deploy armed forces on “the territory of Ukraine” to protect Russian military assets and Russian citizens living there.
Putin’s request and the 90-0 vote by the Federation Council meeting in extraordinary session late Saturday were in response to an appeal from the newly installed pro-Russian leader of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula for assistance in “normalizing” the situation in the region that hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet and a majority Russian-speaking population.
The broad authorization for military response to protect Russian citizens was justified by claims that recent violence in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev -- prompting ex-President Viktor Yanukovich to flee and take refuge in Russia -- had disturbed the “constitutional order” of the former Soviet republic and exposed its Russian minority to unspecified dangers.
It was not immediately clear when or if more Russian troops would move into Ukraine, where new unrest was reported Saturday in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa. Several hundred gunmen in Russian military fatigues without insignia were already deployed to patrol government buildings, communications sites and military installations in Crimea, prompting the Kiev leadership to accuse Moscow of “naked aggression” against the fledgling government.
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