The Russian parliament voted unanimously on Saturday to allow President Vladimir Putin to use the country’s military forces in Ukraine.
Putin made a statement to parliament ahead of the vote asking lawmakers to formalize the country’s military presence already underway in the region of Crimea, which has a majority ethnic Russian population.
“I submit a proposal on using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalization of the socio-political situation in the that country,” Putin said in statement published on his website.
Crimea began distancing itself from Kiev almost immediately after months long protests resulted in the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych last week. Following the turmoil in the capitol Crimea closed its airport and installed pro-Russian guards at important buildings.
The region asked for Russia’s help after seizing control of regional parliament and electing a pro-Russian prime minister.
According to Reuters, Crimea’s prime minister Sergei Aksyonov said unmarked servicemen from the Russian Black Sea Fleet were deployed and have maintained a presence in the region’s parliamentary building since Thursday.
During the emergency parliamentary session, the Russian parliament also recommended recalling the country’s ambassador to Washington in response to a statement President Barack Obama made on Friday warning Russia about the “costs” of a military invasion.