Russia backs sending troops to Ukraine, while protests there spread
Deployment of forces raises stakes in Crimea as Moscow hits out at Obama threat
Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine and also recommended that Moscow’s ambassador be recalled from Washington over comments made by US President Barack Obama.
The unanimous vote formalised what Ukrainian officials described as an invasion of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea. With pro-Russian protests breaking out in other areas, Moscow could now send its military elsewhere in Ukraine.
“I’m submitting a request for using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine pending the normalisation of the sociopolitical situation in that country,” Putin said.
Vitali Klitschko, a senior Ukrainian politician and likely presidential candidate, urged that country’s parliament to mobilise the army in response to Russia’s move.
The developments sharply raised the stakes in the conflict after last week’s ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. The UN Security Council was to hold a second round of emergency talks.
Watch: Russia’s Putin to send troops into Ukraine as protests there spread
Obama warned Moscow on Friday “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily. Obama and European leaders would consider skipping a G8 summit this summer in the Russian city of Sochi, a senior US official said.
One Russian legislator said Obama had crossed a “red line” and lawmakers recommended the Russian ambassador in Washington be recalled.
In Crimea, the region’s new pro-Russian prime minister claimed control of the military and police there and asked Putin for help in keeping peace.
Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said the election of Sergei Aksyonov as prime minister of Crimea was invalid.
In Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk opened a cabinet meeting by calling on Russia not to provoke discord in Crimea. Ukraine’s defence minister, Igor Tenyukh, said Russia’s armed forces had sent 30 armoured personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into the region.
Dozens of people were hurt in clashes when pro-Russia activists stormed the regional government’s headquarters in the eastern city of Kharkiv and raised the Russian flag.
Protests against the new authorities also took place in other cities, including Odessa, Dnipro and Donetsk, Yanukovych’s hometown and power base.
Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse