WATCH: Situation in Crimea escalating rapidly. CBS’ Clarissa Ward has the story.

KYIV, Ukraine – Russia’s parliament approved a motion to use the country’s military in Ukraine after a request from President Vladimir Putin as protests in Russian-speaking cities turned violent Saturday, sparking fears of a wide-scale invasion.

The motion follows President Barack Obama’s warning Friday “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily, sharply raising the stakes in the conflict over Ukraine’s future and evoking memories of Cold War brinkmanship.

“I’m submitting a request for using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country,” Putin said in his request sent to parliament.

In Photos: Incredible images from the growing crisis in Ukraine

Maidan protesters carry their friend’s coffin during the funerals of a man who was killed during the recent clashes with the riot police on Kiev’s Independence square on March 1, 2014. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Pro-Russian activists clash with Maidan supporters as they storm the regional government building in Kharkiv on March 1, 2014. (SERGEY BOBOK/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman cries during the funerals of a man who was killed during the recent clashes with the riot police on Kiev’s Independence square on March 1, 2014. (A woman cries during the funerals of a man who was killed during the recent clashes with the riot police on Kiev’s Independence square on March 1, 2014. (A woman cries during the funerals of a man who was killed during the recent clashes with the riot police on Kiev’s Independence square on March 1, 2014. A woman cries during the funerals of a man who was killed during the recent clashes with the riot police on Kiev’s Independence square on March 1, 2014. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Protester holding an anti-Putin sign over potential intervention by Russia in Ukraine (Getty Images)

Paper made candle holders featuring pictures of killed protesters are disposed at a makeshift memorial near the Independence square in central Kiev on March 1, 2014. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A soldier without identifying insignia mans a machine gun outside the Crimean parliament building shortly after several dozen soldiers took up positions there on March 1, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

One of the armed masked men who call themselves members of Ukraine’s disbanded elite Berkut riot police force aims his Klashnikov rifle at a checkpoint under a Russian national (L) and Russian naval (R) flags on a highway that connect Black Sea Crimea peninsula to mainland Ukraine near the city of Armyansk, on February 28, 2014. (VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple and a child walk between barricades in central Kyiv. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC

A protester warms by a fire at the Independence square in central Kyiv on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused Russia of staging an “armed invasion” of Crimea on Friday as the ex-Soviet state’s ousted leader prepared to emerge defiant from five days of hiding after winning protection from Moscow. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

People stand on an armoured personnel carrier in front of the Ukrainian parliament during a rally in Kiev on February 27, 2014. (People stand on an armoured personnel carrier in front of the Ukrainian parliament during a rally in Kiev on February 27, 2014. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

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Russia’s upper house also recommended that Moscow recalls its ambassador from Washington over Obama’s comments.

Ukraine had already accused Russia on Friday of a “military invasion and occupation” in the strategic peninsula of Crimea where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk called on Moscow “to recall their forces, and to return them to their stations,” according to the Interfax news agency. “Russian partners, stop provoking civil and military resistance in Ukraine.”

The crisis was sparked when Ukraine’s deposed president, Victor Yanukovych, ditched a deal for closer ties to the European Union and instead turned toward Moscow. Months of protests followed, culminating in security forces killing dozens of protesters and Yanukovych fleeing to Russia.

Ignoring Obama’s warning, Putin said the “extraordinary situation in Ukraine” was putting at risk the lives of Russian citizens and military personnel stationed at a naval base that Moscow has maintained in the Black Sea peninsula since the Soviet collapse.

WATCH: Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats say a Russian military intervention is already well underway 

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Putin’s call came as pro-Russian demonstrations broke out in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east, where protesters raised Russian flags and beat up supporters of the new Ukrainian government.

Putin’s motion loosely refers to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than specifically to Crimea, raising the possibility that Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine, where many oppose the new authorities in Kyiv. Pro-Russian protests were reported in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern port of Odesa.

Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and Europe, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support. Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine, is mainly Russian-speaking.

In Saturday’s parliamentary session in Moscow, a deputy house speaker said Obama had insulted Russia and crossed a “red line,” and the upper house recommended the Russian ambassador in Washington be recalled. It will be up to Putin to decide whether that happens.

In Crimea, the pro-Russian prime minister who took office after gunmen seized the regional Parliament claimed control of the military and police there and asked Putin for help in keeping peace, sharpening the discord between the two neighbouring Slavic countries.

WATCH: Pro-Russian demonstrations broke out in major cities in eastern and southern Ukraine on Saturday (Warning: Viewer Discretion is Advised)

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said the election of Sergei Aksyonov as prime minister of Crimea was invalid.

Ukrainian officials and some Western diplomats said that a Russian military intervention is already well underway after heavily armed gunmen in unmarked military uniforms seized control of local government buildings, airports and other strategic facilities in Crimea in recent days.

Crimea only became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality when both Ukraine and Russia were part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet breakup in 1991 meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

Russia put pressure on Ukraine from another direction when a spokesman for state gas company Gazprom said that Ukraine owed $1.59 billion in overdue bills for imported gas. Sergei Kuprianov was quoted by the RIA-Novosti agency as saying the gas arrears would endanger a recent discount granted by Russia. The discount lowered the price to $268.50 per thousand from other $400. The Russian payment demand and loss of the discount would accelerate Ukraine’s financial crisis. The county is almost broke and seeking emergency credit from the International Monetary Fund.

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Russia has taken a confrontational stance toward its southern neighbour after Yanukovych fled the country. Yanukovych was voted out of office by parliament after weeks of protests ended in violence that left more than 80 people dead.

Aksyonov, the Crimea leader, appealed to Putin “for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea.” Aksyonov was voted in by the Crimean parliament on Thursday after pro-Russia gunmen seized the building and as tensions soared over Crimea’s resistance to the new authorities in Kyiv, who took office this week.

Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbour, which is undergoing political upheaval.

He said such action by Russia would represent a “profound interference” in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.

“The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” he said. He did not say what those costs might be.

WATCH: President Obama issues stern warning to Russia not to intervene militarily in Ukraine

At the United Nations, the Ukrainian ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, said Friday that Russian transport aircraft and 11 attack helicopters had arrived in Crimea illegally, and that Russian troops had taken control of two airports in Crimea.

He described the gunmen posted outside the two airports as Russian armed forces as well as “unspecified” units.

Russia has kept silent on claims of military intervention and has said any troop movements are within agreed rules, even as it maintained its hard-line stance on protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea.

Meanwhile, flights remained halted from Simferopol’s airport. Dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings patrolled the area. They didn’t stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.

©2014The Canadian Press