Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to deploy the country’s armed forces in Crimea has been passed by a unanimous vote in Russia’s upper house of parliament.
Putin says he proposed military action because of “the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation”.
Russia’s upper house of parliament will ask President Putin to recall Moscow’s
ambassador from the United States, the chamber’s speaker said on Saturday.
There are thought to be up to 15,000 Russian soldiers stationed in the republic.
Acting president of Ukraine, Oleksander Turchynov, has now called an emergency meeting of security chiefs.
Russia has a major naval base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. The lease stipulates personnel are not allowed to take military equipment or vehicles outside the base without Ukrainian permission.
Turchynov had previously warned that any move by Russian troops off of this base would “be considered a military aggression”.
However, Russia claims it is acting legally, within the perimeters of its constitution.
Russia’s defence laws state military action can be taken overseas if it is to “protect Russian citizens”.
Around 60 percent of Crimea’s 2.3 million inhabitants identify themselves as ethnic Russians and speak Russian.
Ukraine crisis – how it unfolded
24: Thousands protest in Kyiv over government move to shelve EU association agreement.
17: Ukraine secures a 11bn euro bailout from Russia.
19: Up to 200,000 gather in Kyiv to show opposition to newly-enacted anti-protest laws. Clashes between police and protesters.
20: Clashes continue into second day.
22: Kyiv Post reports five killed and 300 injured as clashes intensify.
23: Truce announced which paves the way for arrested protestors to be released.
28: Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigns. Nine of 11 anti-protests laws repealed after vote in parliament. Stand-off continues between police and protesters in Kyiv.
18: 20,000 protestors march to parliament with MPs set to debate a possible new constitution. At least 17 people, including seven policeman, are killed as fresh clashes erupt.
19: Truce agreed.
20: Truce breaks down, fresh clashes see 48-hour death toll rise to at least 77.
21: Peace deal signed, with talk of early elections. Violence spreads to western Ukraine.
22: Protesters freely take control of presidential buildings amid reports Yanukovych has fled. Parliament votes to remove him with fresh elections set for May. Yanukovych appears on TV and denounces a “coup dêtat”. Opposition leader Tymoshenko released from jail.
23: Tymoshenko ally becomes acting president, saying European integration is a priority
25: Parliament votes for ousted Yanukovych to be tried at International Criminal Court.
26: Interim government moves to disband Ukraine’s riot police force as leaks lift the lid on the high-living of ousted president Yanukovych
27: Reports emerge suggesting Yanukovych is now in Russia as parliament appoints new pro-EU government. It comes amid fears of separatism after pro-Russian gunmen takeover government building in Crimea.
28: Yanukovych, speaking at a press conference, vows to fight for Ukraine, calls new government illegitimate and denies ordering police to fire on protesters. It comes as gunmen seize airports in Crimea.