MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev has requested the right to send Russian troops into other countries in an emergency without consulting parliament, the Kremlin said today.
Medvedev urged changes in legislation after last year's war in Georgia. Then, he sent troops into the ex-Soviet state in violation of the constitution after Tbilisi launched a military assault on the pro-Moscow rebel enclave of South Ossetia.
Russian law at the time specified that the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, had the exclusive right to send troops overseas. The Federation Council did not meet until after the 5-day war was over.
A new law adopted in November broadened the range of "emergency situations" in which Russian troops could be deployed, but retained the proviso that the president needed the Federation Council's prior approval.
A statement posted on the Kremlin website (www.kremlin.ru) said Medvedev had asked the chamber to let him alone decide.
"The president sent to the Federation Council a proposal to grant him the right to make decisions on the operational use of Russian armed forces abroad to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security," the statement said.
The statement did not give further details of Medvedev's plan and Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said she had no immediate comment.
Daily “Kommersant” quoted an unnamed Kremlin source as saying that Medvedev's request was "a carte blanche for independent decisions on using the Russian military abroad."
Under existing law, Russia can only send troops abroad to defend its citizens and allies, to fight piracy, and to protect international shipping routes.
Medvedev's request makes little practical difference since the Federation Council is packed with deputies loyal to the Kremlin. But analysts and Kremlin opponents voiced concern.
Mikhail Krasnov, deputy head of the independent think-tank INDEM, said it was not clear whether parliament would have any role at all in dispatching Russian troops abroad.
It was not clear if a change to the constitution would be required.
"Article 102 of the Constitution, as I understand it, stipulates that the president has to get parliamentary approval each time, before or after sending troops abroad," he said. "There can be no carte blanche permission."
The West criticized Russia's military operation in Georgia as a disproportionate response because Moscow's troops pushed beyond South Ossetia into Georgia's heartland and bombed targets in the capital Tbilisi.
The Kremlin has said the military operation, the first use of Russian troops abroad since the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, is a precedent Russia could use in future.
The Communist party, the biggest opposition force in the Duma, has generally backed the Kremlin's tough line on using force abroad. But one of its leaders said Medvedev's request was unconstitutional.
"Any such decision would conform with the Constitution in form, not in spirit," Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy head of the Duma's legislative committee, told internet news site www.gazeta.ru.