Ukrainian parliament votes to impose martial law

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Russian forces shooting at and seizing a neighboring country’s vessels, Ukrainian sailors being wounded and detained, and yet another political crisis between Moscow and the West.

There’s been no shortage of drama between Russia and Ukraine since Sunday.A stack of questions remain about what might happen next, and whether the U.S. and its allies have the means — or even the willingness — to influence this tense situation.What happened?On Sunday, Russian forces shot at and seized three Ukrainian vessels, injuring as many as six crew members.

POWs or trespassers? Untangling Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships.

A total of two dozen sailors were detained at a nearby port the Ukrainian vessels were attempting to pass through the Kerch Strait, a narrow artery linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Russia has effectively controlled the strait ever since it annexed Crimea in 2014.In response, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared 30 days of martial law in border areas over what he called a violation of international law. But Russia blamed the incident on Ukrainian provocation.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined other Western leaders in pointing the finger squarely at the Kremlin and alleged Russia aggression.

Their boss — often accused of being soft on President Vladimir Putin — appeared reluctant to apportion blame.”We don’t like what’s happening either way,” President Donald Trump told reporters Monday.

Where are the Ukrainian sailors?

The sailors were taken to the Crimean port of Kerch, where local media released a video purporting to show some of the men speaking on camera. They explain they entered Russian territorial waters and received warnings from Russian border control vessels to leave the area.One of the men said he was aware their actions were “of a provocative nature.”The Ukrainian military confirmed on Facebook that the men in the video were its sailors. However, such videos must be treated with extreme caution because it’s not clear what was said before or after these edited extracts, nor whether the sailors were under duress.

The men appear relaxed, but the head of Ukraine’s security service, Vasyl Hrytsak warned that they were under “psychological and physical pressure” while in detention.

Both countries disagree on the detainees’ legal status.Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called them “prisoners of war,” and said his government was liaising with International Red Cross to help lobby the Kremlin for their release. “In reality, we clearly understand that the decision can only be made on Putin’s level,” Klimkin told Ukrainian television. “

That’s where our efforts are at.”Russia, on the other hand, denies the men are POWs. It calls them trespassers who will be “prosecuted in strict accordance with the law,” the state-run TASS news agency quoted Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.A local court will determine the fate of the sailors in the next two days, the Crimean Human Rights Ombudsperson told TASS on Tuesday.

What does international law say?

Cutting through the claims and counterclaims, the dispute largely boils down to one thing: Crimea.

When Russia and Ukraine were relatively friendly, they shared the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as part of a 2003 agreement.That was all fine until 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. This gave it control of not just one but both sides of the strait.#embed-20181126-black-sea-russia iframe {width: 1px;min-width: 100%}

Although the 2003 agreement still stands in theory, Russia now demands that all vessels, including those from Ukraine, to request permission before they pass through.In May, it opened the $3.69 billion Crimea Bridge, cementing its grip on this crucial bottleneck.

Independent observers have pointed out that the bridge’s span is lower than international standards, putting a permanent cap on the size of ship able to enter the Azov.The move has caused huge delays in recent months, leading to claims Russia is trying to blockade Ukraine’s ports and transform the Azov into a de facto Russian lake.

Some Western critics say this is all part of the Kremlin’s tactic of “creeping annexation,” a ploy to subtly recoup territory from its old Soviet allies.Russia has been adamant its actions in the area are legally justified, and points out Ukraine has detained one of its own ships in this region.

It was against this backdrop that Russia claimed the three Ukrainian ships had ignored its warning shots and entered its waters Sunday. It’s not exactly clear where the vessels were at the time, but coordinates offered by officials and analysts on both sides suggest they were in or even just outside Crimean waters, which Russia regards as its “territorial sea.”The problem with this is that most countries in the world, including the U.S. and almost all of Europe, say Russia’s Crimea annexation is an illegal occupation.

They don’t recognize these waters as Russian, and therefore say Moscow has no grounds to stop ships, let alone fire at them.On this fundamental principle alone Russia’s actions Sunday broke international law, according to Valentin Schatz, research associate in public international law at Germany’s University of Hamburg

 

KIEV — Ukraine’s parliament on Monday voted to introduce martial law in the wake of Russia seizing Ukrainian vessels and detaining 24 sailors.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made a personal appeal to lawmakers to back his plan for martial law, warning of “a highly serious threat of a ground operation against Ukraine” by Moscow.

 

Russia on Sunday opened fire on two Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tugboat off the coast of Crimea, which Russia’s FSB security service claimed had illegally entered its territorial waters. Russian authorities then seized the three naval ships and blocked the Kerch Strait.

Despite turbulent scenes in the Kiev parliament, during which MPs hurled insults at each other, deputies voted to approve an amended, scaled-back version of the president’s plan by a comfortable 50-vote margin.

The approved legislation foresees martial law being introduced for 30 days — cut back from Poroshenko’s original proposal of 60 days — in 10 of Ukraine’s 27 regions, which border Russia, the breakaway Transnistria region and the Black and Azov seas.

 

Ukraine’s government has agreed to impose thirty days of martial law, starting Wednesday, across ten regions bordering Russia to the east and the Black and Azov Seas to the south.

The decision came in response to a Black Sea spat on Sunday, where Russia fired upon and seized three Ukrainian vessels, and detained 23 Ukrainian sailors. Ukraine called the incident “an act of aggression,” but Russia maintains Ukrainian ships had trespassed in its waters.

 

But what is martial law? And how is it going to affect Ukraine?



Ukraine’s martial law
Martial law is generally implemented when a country incurs civil unrest, is in a time of national crisis, or is in a state of war. However, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has maintained that the introduction of martial law “does not mean a declaration of war.”

Despite Poroshenko initially proposing a 60-day martial law, a revised version of the decree limited this to 30 days across ten regions on the Russia-Ukraine border, and along the Black Sea coast.

 

It will be declared in these regions on the morning of November 28, and will last until December 27

 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has told lawmakers that the martial law introduced in the country will only affect regions bordering Russia, Belarus and Moldova’s breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester.
A bill passed by Ukraine’s parliament in 2015, “About the Legal Regime of Martial Law,” lists everything that could potentially come into effect in the next 30 days.

President Petro Poroshenko

It is not currently clear how many of these restrictions will be implemented over the coming days, and some may not be implemented at all, but it will involve the country’s military temporarily taking over local powers.

According to the current Ukrainian legislation, these are just some of the changes that could come into effect:

Restrictions on constitutional rights and freedoms of civilians
Introduction of a “labour duty,” enforcing unemployed able-bodied civilians into employment, which may be within the military
Seizure of properties owned by the state, or “forcibly dispose” of communal and privately owned property “for the needs of the state.”
Introduction of a curfew
Introduction of military checkpoints and restrictions of “the freedom of movement of citizens, foreigners and stateless persons, as well as the movement of vehicles.”
Document checking of individuals, and conducting spot inspections
Bans on peaceful protests, rallies and mass events
Prohibition or restrictions on the mass media
Prohibition or restrictions on the transfer of information on social media networks
Has martial law been declared in the past?
This is the first time Ukraine has declared martial law since 1945. It was not declared during the flare-up in tensions and subsequent war in the country’s east in 2014.

Many have questioned whether Poroshenko chose now to enact the martial law in a bid to postpone the upcoming presidential elections and increase his dwindling popularity.