Less than 24 hours after President Obama warned Russia that “there will be costs” for any military intervention in Ukraine — something that most believed was already happening — Russian President Vladimir V. Putin requested authority from the Russian Senate to use just such military force in Ukraine.
The New York Times:
Mr. Putin’s request, largely a formality, signaled publicly for the first time the Kremlin’s readiness to intervene militarily in Ukraine, and it served as a blunt response to President Obama, who just hours earlier pointedly warned Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Even as Mr. Putin submitted his request to the Senate, formally called the Federation Council, it was clear that forces allied with Moscow were largely in control of the disputed peninsula.
Just a few hours earlier on Saturday morning, the newly installed, pro-Russia prime minister of Crimea declared that he had sole control over the military and the police in the disputed peninsula and he appealed to Mr. Putin for help in safeguarding the region.
The prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, also said a public referendum on independence would be held on March 30.
The Times also says that pro-Russian forces are “said to have taken control of a government building in Kharkiv, and a crowd in the center of Donetsk pulled down the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag and raised a Russian one.”
Read more here.
In a more extensive piece the Washington Post reports similar news pointing out that Putin’s “loose” reference to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than specifically to Crimea, raises the possibility that “Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine where many oppose the new authorities in Kiev.”
Putin’s request to the Russian Senate is expected to be “rubber-stamped” by that body today, says the Post.
Read more here.