MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) – The leaders of Russia’s upper and lower houses of parliament called Saturday on President Vladimir Putin to stabilize the situation in Crimea and protect Russian citizens.
The leader of Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, said the use of military force in the former Soviet nation could be justified after the opposition swept into power in Kiev last weekend.
“In this situation it would even be possible, on the request of the Crimean government, to bring in a limited contingent [of troops] to guarantee security,” Valentina Matviyenko said.
The partition of Ukraine has become increasingly likely in recent days as heavily armed men understood to be Russian soldiers have taken control of key facilities and blocked roads in Crimea.
About 60 percent of the residents of Ukraine’s southern peninsula are ethnic Russians with the remainder of the population made up of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, who largely support the incoming regime.
The State Duma, Russia’s lower house, released a similar statement Saturday that said must Putin bring the situation in Ukraine under control.
“All available means” should be deployed to protect Russian citizens, said Sergei Naryshkin, a former head of the presidential administration and the current parliamentery speaker in the Duma.
The Crimea has been visited by a series of Russian Duma deputies in recent days, including former boxing champion Nikolai Valuev, former figure skater Irina Rodnina, and the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova.
Pro-Russian protests calling for secession have taken place sporadically across the southern and eastern Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovuych was toppled from power a week ago.
Meanwhile, international media has reported widespread military movements, believed to be units from Russia's Black Sea fleet headquartered in Crimea, including tanks and helicopters that began on Tuesday. Ukrainian officials have accused the Kremlin of provoking conflict and called on Russia to return all soldiers to their bases.