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Medvedev okays widened possible use of military force abroad

MOSCOW, November 9 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian president on Monday signed into law a bill expanding the use of the Russian Armed Forces abroad in certain situations.

The bill was passed by both houses of the Russian parliament in October.

Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday Russia would use its Armed Forces outside the country only in extreme circumstances to protect Russian nationals.

"Such decisions will be made only when absolutely necessary," Medvedev said. "Our citizens must be protected in any part of the world, and they must feel protected by the state."

He stressed that such decisions "must be set in law."

Medvedev submitted the amendments to parliament in August, just after the first anniversary of Russia's five-day war with Georgia.

The amendments stipulate that Russian troops can be used abroad to repel an attack on Russian troops deployed outside the country, repel or prevent an armed attack on another state asking Russia for military assistance, defend Russian nationals abroad from an armed attack, fight sea piracy and ensure the safety of commercial shipping.

Russia's current 2006 legislation only allows the president to send troops to fight terrorism on foreign soil. Experts have said the law lacks clearly defined terms of "wartime" and a "combat situation," which complicates the deployment of troops outside the country.

Russia sent in troops last summer to repel Georgia's offensive on South Ossetia, where Moscow had maintained peacekeepers since a bloody post-Soviet conflict in the early 1990s. Russia was condemned internationally over its "excessive" use of force and subsequent recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Under the new document, the Russian president can decide to deploy armed forces abroad subject to approval by the upper house.

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