During an emergency session Saturday, Russian Parliament unanimously approved the use of the country’s military against Ukraine.
Ukraine has been in turmoil in recent months amid a conflict between pro-Russian and pro-Western European forces in the country. The crisis came to a head last weekend with the ouster of the country’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Earlier today, the ousted president’s ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, asked his parliament for approval to send troops into Ukraine, as Russian troops effectively took control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, according to The New York Times.
“In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine and the threat to the lives of Russian citizens… I submit to the Federation Council a request to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory until the normalization of the political situation in that country,” Putin said in a document that the Kremlin provided to the media.
Putin’s call to send troops into Ukraine came in the midst of pro-Russian demonstrations in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking East, according to the AP. Pro-Russian protesters had reportedly been beating up supporters of the new, anti-Russian Ukrainian government.
U.S. President Barack Obama told Russia Friday there could be “costs” if it intervened in Ukraine, spurring one Russian lawmaker to say Obama was out of line, according to the AP. The upper house of Russia’s parliament then recommended that the Russian ambassador in Washington be recalled.
Ukraine had already accused Russia of sending thousands of troops to Crimea, an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine which has been hostile to the Ukrainian government, according to Reuters. The new, pro-Russian prime minister of Crimea had asked Putin for help in keeping the region secure, according to the Times.
As an autonomous republic, Crimea has a larger say over local issues than other parts of Ukraine but is still governed by that country, as the blog Marc to Market explains. Ethnic Russians make up about 60% of the population there, while ethnic Ukrainians make up about 25% of Crimea.
As such, the presence of armed Russian soldiers in Crimea has aroused mixed feelings in the people there. One 71-year-old told Reuters that the Russians were protecting the Crimeans, while others are more suspicious of the military presence.
In Ukraine, things began to get tense this fall when Yanukovych went back on a promise to sign onto trade deals with the European Union. This upset many Ukrainians, who were eager to get closer to the EU and distance themselves from Russia, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer explained in a Dec. 2 interview with PBS.:
Polls show more than 50 per cent of the Ukrainian population now would like to get closer to Europe.
And it’s because of the living standards, but it’s also because of rule of law. For a country where there is corruption, where crony politics, they would like to have a more normal democratic system, and that is the attraction of Europe.
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