support by warning about an imminent Russian invasion, Ukrainian
President Petro Poroshenko managed to win approval from the Ukrainian
Parliament in a midnight vote on Monday following five hours of
Unwilling to simply
accept Poroshenko's claims that he had heard reliable whispers about
an imminent Russian invasion, opposition figures pressed Poroshenko
on his reasoning for the emergency measures, and ultimately succeeded
in forcing him to water down the proposal. But
even before Poroshenko's decree won the approval of lawmakers, the
Ukrainian president had already started deploying troops into the
streets of his country.
Now in a state
of martial law, Ukraine has called up its reservists and deployed all
available troops to join the mobilization. Initially
expected to last for two months, Poroshenko revised his degree to
avoid accusations that he would try to interfere in the upcoming
Ukrainian election. The decree passed by the Rada will leave martial
law in effect for 30 days. The country has also started restricting
travel for Russian nationals. NATO Commander Jens Stoltenberg
Associated Press that
Poroshenko had given his word that the order wouldn't interfere with
the upcoming vote.
conflict between the Ukraine and Russia exploded into life on
Russian ships fired on two Ukrainian artillery ships and rammed a
the ships traveled toward the Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of
Azov to the Black Sea. Russia's mighty Black Sea fleet has taken
the three ships and their crew into custody, and has so far ignored
calls to release the soldiers by the UN, European leaders and
officials criticized Russia for its "aggressive" defense of
the Kerch Strait, which Ukraine has a right to use according to a
bilateral treaty. After Nikki Haley said during an emergency meeting
of the UN Security Council that Russia was making it "impossible"
to have normal relations with the US, Mike Pompeo said Russia's
"aggressive action" was a "dangerous escalation"
and also "violates international law." He also advocated
for Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage in
says the ships disobeyed orders to halt, and that Ukraine had failed
to notify Russia of the ships' advance. Ukraine claims that it did
notify Russia, and that the incident is the result of "growing
Russian aggression." Six Ukrainian crewmen were injured in the
Russian attack, which was the first act of violence between the two
nations since the annexation of Crimea.
diplomats from both countries traded accusations of provocations and
Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted that the dispute was not an
accident and that Russia had engaged in "deliberately planned
hostilities," while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
blamed Kiev for what he described as a
had undoubtedly hoped to get additional benefits from the situation,
expecting the U.S. and Europe to blindly take the provocateurs’
said the martial law was necessary because Ukraine was facing nothing
short of a all-out ground invasion.
said it was necessary because of intelligence about "a
highly serious threat of a ground operation against Ukraine." He
did not elaborate.
law doesn’t mean declaring a war," he
said. "It is introduced with the sole purpose of boosting
Ukraine’s defense in the light of a growing aggression from
the president's plans to impose martial law throughout the country
were rebuffed as the opposition forced a compromise where troops will
only be deployed in 10 border provinces. These provinces share
borders with Russia, Belarus and the Trans-Dniester, a pro-Moscow
breakaway region of Moldova.
many remained skeptical. Opposition figures, including former
President Yulia Tymoshenko pointed out that the order would give
soldiers broad latitude to do pretty much whatever they want.
Furthermore, Ukraine never called for martial law during the
insurgency in the east that erupted back in 2014, eventually leading
to an armed conflict that killed more than 10,000.
approved measures included a partial mobilization and strengthening
of air defenses. It also contained vaguely worded steps such as
"strengthening" anti-terrorism measures and "information
security" that could curtail certain rights and freedoms.
Poroshenko also pledged to respect the rights of Ukrainian citizens.
Poroshenko’s vow to respect individual rights, opposition lawmaker
and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko warned before the vote
that his proposal would lead to the possible illegal searches,
invasion of privacy and curtailing of free speech.
means they will be breaking into the houses of Ukrainians and not
those of the aggressor nation," noted Tymoshenko, who is leading
in various opinion polls. "They
will be prying into personal mail, family affairs ... In fact,
everything that is written here is a destruction of the lives of
call also outraged far-right groups in Ukraine that have advocated
severing diplomatic ties with Russia. Hundreds of protesters from the
National Corps party waved flares in the snowy streets of Kiev
outside parliament and accused the president of using martial law to
his own ends.
Poroshenko insisted it was necessary because what happened in the
Kerch Strait between Crimea and the Russian mainland "was
no accident," adding that "this was not the culmination of
critics reacted to his call for martial law with suspicion, wondering
why Sunday’s incident merited such a response. With his approval
ratings in free fall following a series of corruption scandals,
Poroshenko's enemies worry that the incident may have been
stage-managed to give the president an excuse to crack down on
dissent and free movement ahead of the vote.