Russia's lower house of parliament may seek guidance from the government on whether to call for the recognition of two breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent, its speaker said on Friday, implying that the step could be delayed.
The State Duma, Russia's lower house, is due on Monday to set a date to vote on a group of lawmakers' proposal to appeal to President Vladimir Putin to recognize the two self-proclaimed republics that are supported by Moscow.
Formal recognition of the east Ukrainian regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 would further inflame tensions over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that has raised fears of an invasion. Moscow denies invasion plans.
"This is a very serious and crucial question. We're talking about protecting the lives of our citizens and compatriots," powerful State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in a statement on Friday.
Raising the prospect of new consultations, Volodin said the Duma would also decide on Monday whether to first ask the Foreign Ministry and other government agencies for feedback on their idea. Such a move would probably entail delays.
He said that only two Duma factions - the Communists and Just Russia, which together control 85 of its 450 seats - wanted to vote immediately to ask Putin to recognize the regions.
The decision is expected to be made by a council of the Duma's most senior lawmakers.
Volodin is a member of the pro-Putin United Russia party that dominates the lower house of parliament and the political landscape across the country.
United Russia, which has 325 seats in the house, supported a separate idea to send Russian military supplies and other aid to the breakaway regions, Volodin said.