Russian Federation Pres. Vladimir Putin on Mar 1 asked for authorization of military force to protect Russian lives and interests in Ukraine in an emergency session of the Russian Federation Council in Moscow, a legislative body equivalent to the U.S. Senate, though known for its 'rubber stamping' of directives after they've been issued by Pres. Putin. The vote was unanimous for the authorization.
The move comes on the heels of a stealthy deployment of up to 6,000 Russian combat troops into Crimea wearing unmarked combat uniforms, seizing airports and key road hubs to prevent Ukrainian military forces from reinforcing Crimea and likely to bring more Russian troops and armored vehicles.
Russian IL-76 heavy air transports as well as transport and attack helicopters have been shuttling back and forth between Semferopol and Sevastopol and the Russian Caucuses region to the east of Crimea, while Russian Black Sea Fleet missile patrol boats prosecuted a naval blockade of the harbor area around Sevastopol.
The Ukrainian leadership in Kiev has placed its military forces on alert, including a war warning to Ukrainian naval vessel underway in the Black Sea.
Earlier in the week, Pres. Putin ordered the mobilization of 150,000 Russian troops on the border with eastern Ukraine.
Pres. Putin is citing security agreements with Ukraine regarding Crimea as justification for troop movements in that territory. So, it is likely the request for authorization today, is for sending troops into eastern Ukraine.
It is also possible that Russian forces could advance into northwest Ukraine from Russian positions in Belarus and drive south parallel to the Polish border and toward the city of Lviv. Though technically independent, Russian forces reestablished a heavy military presence in Belarus several years ago, including Russian border guards on Belarus' border with Poland.
Perhaps in anticipation of such an action, the Polish Foreign Minister has cut short his trade trip to India and is heading back to Warsaw. Were Russian forces to drive into western Ukraine, there would likely be a flow of refugees into Poland.
Warnings have been issued from European leaders, including NATO Sec. Gen. Rasmussen against any Russian military intervention into Ukraine. The latest warning came from Pres. Barack Obama in a statement Feb 28 in Washington. The escalation in frequency and stern wording of these warnings suggests Western intelligence data has indicated that Russia is preparing for military intervention or a large scale invasion.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so there is no obligation by treaty to defend or assist Ukraine militarily.