Kiev was on edge Saturday after Russian parliament’s upper house unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request for a military intervention in Ukraine, according to a Kremlin statement.
The approval came within two hours of Putin appealing to parliament, saying the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea, a peninsula the size of Massachusetts where three out of four people speak Russian.
However, the vote does not specify that Russian troops are authorized to enter Crimea; instead, it states Russia’s military force can enter “Ukraine,” giving themselves a legal cloak to target more than Crimea.
That set off alarm bells in Kiev, where the new, inexperienced and untested government is still trying to gain its footing.
But Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Grigory Karasin — who Putin appointed as the official representative on the military action proposal — said Russian force in Ukraine may not be used quickly.
Karasin did not give a timeframe for military action and it was unclear whether Putin’s announcement was merely intended to send a message to international powers that Russia would not back down over the future of Ukraine.
Hours before Putin’s statement, Western foreign ministers issued calls for Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Crimea — echoing a similar warning from President Barack Obama on Friday that armed intervention would have “costs.”
The request, made to the Russian Senate, follows a letter from the upper house to Putin appealing for the same.
Read the rest at NBCNews.com.