On Saturday, two key elements happened (1) President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine and condemning military action in Ukraine. (2) President Putin received parliamentary approval to use military force in Ukraine and dispatched troops on the autonomous Republic of Crimea. A protest movement has arisen to turn Ukraine toward the European Union and away from Russia.
There is a division between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian activists after Pro-Russian Ukraine President Yanukovych was voted out of office and new President Aksyonov was voted in by Parliament. Yanukovych took refuge in Russia and appealed to Putin for assistance. Crimea is part of independent Ukraine; houses 2 million Russians; at the port city Sevastopol is the Russian Black Sea Fleet and thousands of naval personnel. Putin reports he has dispatched troops to protect Russian citizens until the socio-political environment subsides.
Ukraine and Russia have a deep history over the Crimea territory. During the 50s, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to Ukraine. When the Soviet Union broke up in the 90s, Crimea was given to independent Ukraine. Insecurity has resulted throughout the years as the Ukraine Presidents control if the Russian fleet in the Black Sea has to leave. Currently there is concern that the new Ukraine President (elected in 2010) will evict the previous agreement established for this key port. The previous agreement extended the presence of the Russian fleet until 2042.
The U.S. condemns military involvement in Ukraine and wants Russian troops to not leave their bases in Crimea. If any concerns arise about the treatment of ethnic Russians and other minority populations in Ukraine, President Obama communicated that this shall be resolved with direct engagement with the Ukraine government and international observers.