Russian lawmakers revoke right to send troops into Ukraine

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - The Russian parliament's upper chamber voted on Wednesday to revoke the right that it had granted President Vladimir Putin in March to order a military intervention in Ukraine, where Kiev is struggling to quell a rebellion by Russian speakers in the east.

Justifying the move, which Putin had requested, a senior lawmaker said it should be seen as an act of goodwill to help facilitate peace efforts in Ukraine, but that the Federation Council stood ready to reinstate the authority if needed.

The vote was carried by 153 votes in favour to one against.

The shock reversal by the Kremlin strongman was welcomed by Kiev and its Western allies who have threatened Russia with a slew of tougher sanctions over its alleged backing of the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

But scepticism persists over how genuine Moscow's peace efforts are as fighting rumbles on in conflict-hit Ukraine despite pro-Russian rebels agreeing to a temporary government ceasefire. Russia's rubber-stamp Federation Council took the decision to revoke the permission with no debate, and chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko appeared momentarily shocked when the flashing result showed one dissenting voice. 1

"The President has... enough options for day-to-day influence in Ukraine," said the head of the legislative body's defence committee Viktor Ozerov. If the need comes once again for "military means", the senators are "ready to look at such propositions," he assured.

Mr Putin asked the Federation Council to approve possible military action on March 1, referring to a perceived "threat to the lives of Russian citizens," particularly on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. The lawmakers convened in an extraordinary session just hours later and gave their unanimous green light.

By the end of the month, Russian troops had deployed across Crimea and helped organise a referendum that paved the way for the region's annexation by Moscow. "Life has proven that our decision was correct," Mr Ozerov said, "Crimea today... is reunited with Russia."

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