Ukraine imposes martial law in 10 regions for 30 days amid conflict with Russia in Azov Sea

Ukraine imposes martial law in 10 regions for 30 days amid conflict with Russia in Azov Sea
Ukraine imposed martial law following a naval skirmish with Russia on the Sea of Azov
By Sergei Kuznetsov in Kyiv November 27, 2018

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, greenlighted on November 26 the introduction of martial law in a number of regions of Ukraine for a period of 30 days from November 28 by the nation's President Petro Poroshenko following a dramatic escalation of a Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Azov Sea.

The previous day, Russian forces attacked the Ukrainian Navy's boats, capturing three vessels with around two dozen sailors. The move is widely considered as an act of aggression by Moscow against Kyiv followed by the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea by the Kremlin as well as fuelling pro-Russian rebellion in the Donbas region.

The parliament's motion was backed by 276 lawmakers at an extraordinary session more than the necessary minimum of 226 votes to pass the measure.

According to Poroshenko, martial law will be introduced in the country's regions located along the Russian border, along the Transnistrian section of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, along the Azov Sea and the Black Sea. "It is exactly where the blow can take place," the president told the Verkhovna Rada the same day.

According to Poroshenko’s media office, martial law will be introduced in the Vinnytsia, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kherson regions, as well as the internal waters of the Azov-Kerch water area.

Growing threat from Russia

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military command said it believes that Russia may attempt to seize two Ukrainian cities near the Azov Sea, specifically, Mariupol in the Donetsk region and Berdiansk in the Zaporizhia region.

The Ukraine has claimed on numerous occasions that a land invasion is imminent, but there are no associated reports of Russian troop movements to substantiate these claims.

On November 26, Ukraine's permanent representative of Ukraine to the UN Volodymyr Yelchenko, has quoted national intelligence reports, according to which "further escalation of the situation by Russia cannot be ruled out". "According to recent reports, there is a real threat of an invasion and seizure of Mariupol and Berdiansk, as well as further aggressive actions and provocations by the border guards service of the Russian Federation, [security service] FSB, and the Russian Navy," Yelchenko said.

He added that Ukraine is ready to settle the situation by diplomatic and political means. "The Kremlin's criminal regime has demonstrated that it will not stop its aggressive policy and that it is ready to undertake any aggressive actions against the Ukrainian state," Interfax news agency quoted the diplomat as saying.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the same day that that Ukrainian military sailors captured in the Azov Sea are prisoners of war, "in accordance with international law", specifically, the Geneva Convention of 1949.

"What was Putin waiting for?"

Poroshenko said also during his address to the nation's parliament that a meeting of the UN Security Council on November 26 showed that "nobody believes Russia ['s version of the latest events]", while there is a clearly recorded fact of the aggression of Moscow against Ukraine in the Azov Sea.

"Russian version with a thesis that Ukraine has allegedly violated the Russian border. Do you know how it was viewed in New York [by the US Security Council]? They refused to consider it, because nobody believes Russia," Poroshenko's media office quoted him as saying. "And this is the fruit of our work aimed to form a world coalition in support of Ukraine."

In addition, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, a decision was made to hold a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine special commission after the world saw what was happening in the Azov Sea and when our intelligence provided convincing evidence of the risk for Ukrainian soldiers, of the opened fire, of the damaged Ukrainian warships, of the worthy behaviour of the Ukrainian sailors, Poroshenko added.

"What was Putin waiting for? [He was waiting for] that we repeat the fate of Georgia [during the 2008 Russia's invasion to Georgia]. So that we give a handle to ensure the shedding of blood of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. So that we lose support of the whole world and remain on our own with our problems," Poroshenko added.