KIEV, November 28. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s decree to impose martial law across the Vinnytsia, Lugansk, Nikolayev, Odessa, Sumy, Kharkov, Chernigov, Donetsk, Zaporozhye, and Kherson Regions along with the country’s territorial waters in the Azov-Kerch water zone has taken effect after its text had been made public in the media.
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The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) convened a special meeting on November 26 with 276 lawmakers having voted in favor of martial law, surpassing the required minimum of 226 votes.
"To introduce martial law in Ukraine for 30 days from 2:00 p.m. on November 26, 2018 to 2:00 p.m. on December 26, 2018," reads the law published in the Government Courier, the state newspaper, on Wednesday. Kiev’s move to impose martial law followed the Kerch Strait incident.
On November 25, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported that the Ukrainian warships, the Berdyansk, the Nikopol and the Yany Kapu had violated the Russian state border on Sunday morning and later attempted to carry out illegal maneuvers in Russia’s territorial waters. The Ukrainian vessels ignored the legitimate demands of the Coast Guard of the FSB Border Service and the Black Sea Fleet to immediately halt, and stop performing dangerous maneuvers.As a result, a chase involving some gunfire ensued in order to thwart the Ukrainian ships, which were detained in Russia's territorial waters.
Moscow deemed Kiev’s maneuvers in the Kerch Strait as a dangerous provocation, while the European Union and the NATO called for a de-escalation of tensions.
Martial law crusade rocked by scandal
The consideration of the martial-law decree in the parliament had been marked by scandals, adjournments and significant changes to the text of the bill. The meeting started with the blocking of the rostrum since members of the Radical party and the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc had occupied the Presidium in the parliament, demanding consultations with the head of state. Representatives of the People’s Front party insisted that martial law should be reduced to 30 days and only cover certain regions of the country.
Under the circumstances, the president relayed a video message saying that he had changed his position in order to make concessions to the opponents. Hence, a recommendation by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council on introducing the 60-day martial law had been replaced by a 30-day period across the country’s ten regions. Some experts believe that Poroshenko had softened his stance due to pressure from foreign leaders, with many of whom he had held telephone talks that day.
Oksana Syroyid, Deputy Speaker of the parliament, along with quite a large number of deputies said that the planned two-month period of martial law was designed to push back, or even disrupt the 2019 presidential election. In order to prevent this, the Verkhovna Rada had in advance adopted a resolution with a near constitutional majority, scheduling the next presidential election for March 31, 2019, as set by Ukrainian law.
The document envisages that civil rights and freedoms of the nation’s citizens may be restricted in accordance with certain Articles of the Constitution. These Articles particularly relate to the inviolability of housing, privacy of correspondence and telephone conversations, non-interference in private and family life, freedom of movement and freedom to choose one’s residence, the right to peaceful meetings and demonstrations, possession of property, the right to work, and so on.
Poroshenko stated that despite his extensive powers as Supreme Commander-in-Chief he has no plans to declare full or partial mobilization yet. However, the president didn’t exclude that it could happen "should the situation escalate" in the country and "a serious threat of a land-based operation against Ukraine," surface.
What former Ukrainian presidents say
Former Ukrainian leaders, namely Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko, issued a joint statement expressing doubts about the need for martial law in the country. They believe that it will limit civil rights and freedoms, and runs the risk of triggering chaos throughout the country.
Ukrainian political scientist Ruslan Bortnik in turn called martial law an "extremely radical tool", which is used when the country is on the verge of demise. "The economic situation in the country will deteriorate. The investors that we have will start withdrawing their money with people buying up products and foreign currency. This is a crisis for the economy, and a very bad omen," he stressed.