MOSCOW President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday proposed legislation to give him the legal basis to send troops abroad to defend Russia's interests, the Kremlin said.
Medvedev sent troops deep into Georgian territory last year in a brief war over the disputed province of South Ossetia, but Russian media questioned whether the proper legal procedures had been followed.
The new law would allow foreign deployments to defend a third country against aggression, to protect Russian citizens and military personnel and to fight naval piracy, according to the draft posted on the Kremlin's website.
"The draft submitted by the president is aimed at forming a fully fledged legal mechanism to allow the commander-in-chief to use armed forces formations abroad to defend the interests of Russia and its citizens," Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in a statement on Monday.
Georgian foreign ministry spokesman Zurab Kachkashvili said the new law was a bid "to place the aggression perpetrated against Georgia last year within a legal framework", Interfax news agency reported.
The Kremlin said Russian forces entered Georgia last August to defend Russian troops and citizens in South Ossetia, a region that broke from Georgian control in a war in the early 1990s.
Most countries in the former Soviet Union have significant minorities of Russian citizens. Several, including Georgia's ally Ukraine, host Russian military bases.
The president would be able to order troops abroad "on the basis of a decree of the Federation Council", the upper house of parliament, the law said.
The Federation Council gave its approval for Russian troops to operate in South Ossetia only after the war, amid confusion over whether it was required.
Medvedev said the new law was motivated by last year's war in Georgia, but said he hoped he would not have to send troops abroad.
"Of course we very much hope that such incidents do not repeat themselves, but all the same we need to have a more specific legal base for these issues," Medvedev said on Monday during a meeting with the leaders of Russia's main political parties.