KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s parliament has granted President Vladimir Putin permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine.
Saturday’s unanimous vote formalized what Ukrainian officials described as an ongoing deployment of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea. It also raised the possibility that Moscow could send its military elsewhere in Ukraine.
Putin’s call came as pro-Russian demonstrations broke out in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, where protesters raised Russian flags and beat up supporters of the new Ukrainian government.
Russia’s move sharply raised the stakes in the conflict following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last week by a protest movement aimed at turning Ukraine toward the European Union and away from Russia.
The Russian parliament is also recommending that Moscow’s ambassador be recalled from Washington over comments made by President Barack Obama, who warned Moscow on Friday that “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council will be holding a closed door meeting for the second consecutive day to discuss the current situation in Ukraine.
The President of the Security Council said informal consultations among council members would begin at 2 p.m. Saturday.