Russia and Ukraine: Edging closer

20 Photos

Russian President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament’s authority on Saturday to invade Ukraine after troops seized control of the Crimea peninsula and pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisted flags above government buildings in two eastern cities.

It followed days of warnings from U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders that Russia must not intervene, and assurances from Moscow that it would not do so.

Putin swiftly secured unanimous approval from Russia’s senate for the use of armed force on the territory of his neighbor, citing the need to protect Russian citizens, the same reason he gave for invading tiny Georgia in 2008.

Troops widely believed to belong to Moscow have already seized Crimea, an isolated peninsula in the Black Sea where Moscow has a large military presence in the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet. The campaign there has been bloodless so far, with Kiev’s new authorities powerless to intervene.

Scores were also hurt on Saturday in clashes between pro-Russian demonstrators and supporters of Kiev’s new authorities in eastern cities – areas near the Russian frontier, where Moscow is staging war games on high alert. – Tribune wire reports