Russian President Vladimir Putin won parliamentary approval to invade Ukraine on Saturday as Russian troops took over the Crimean peninsula without firing a shot, gaining control of the multi-ethnic autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine through the support of local allies.
The newly installed government in Ukraine showed little resistance and proved to be incapable of stopping well-armed Russian military troops wearing military clothing with no insignia in this strategically important region in Southern Ukraine on the Black Sea where there are reported to be 15,000 Russian troops, according to UN officials.
Government leaders in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev held an emergency session of its security council Saturday evening and scheduled a parliamentary meeting for Sunday to determine how the volatile country plans to respond to an encroaching Russian military invasion on its southern peninsula.
On Saturday Russian President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President Barack Obama on the phone that “Russia reserves its right to protect its interests” in Ukraine’s Crimea and voiced concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations across Ukraine.
President Obama told Putin that “the United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory” which comes one day after he said during a White House press conference that “we are now deeply concerned about reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine” and “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement on Saturday that directly challenged Putin’s justification for invading Ukraine.
“From day one, we’ve made clear that we recognize and respect Russia’s ties to Ukraine and its concerns about treatment of ethnic Russians. But these concerns can and must be addressed in a way that does not violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by directly engaging the Government of Ukraine.”
On Thursday armed gunmen vowed loyalty to Russia, seized the Parliament building and airport in Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea, and set the stage for a week-end Russian invasion.
The Crimean region with its access to the Mediterranean Sea has historically been a crossroads for competing empires and powers.
Crimea has a warm water port that is the leased headquarters for Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet which Ukraine controversially leased out to Russia until 2042 by Ukraine’s former President Yanukovych who was ousted last week and has taken refuge in Russia after his soldiers killed 70-100 anti-Russian protesters in Kiev.
Civil unrest began in Ukraine last November when President Yanukovich abandoned a free trade pact with the European Union and forged closer ties with Russia at Moscow’s urging.
The nearly bankrupt country of Ukraine is divided with many Ukrainians in the south and eastern parts of the country showing allegiances to Russia while many other Ukrainians across the country seek closer ties with Western Europe.
– Johnathan Schweitzer