Ukraine Declares Martial Law in Regions Bordering Russia and Unrecognized Transnistria
26 November, 2018

After hours of discussions and sessions, the Ukrainian parliament has voted in favor of introducing martial law in regions bordering Russia and unrecognized Transnistria following the latest escalation between Ukraine and Russia near the Kerch Strait. The law was supported by 276 MPs and is now in effect for 30 days as opposed to the originally declared 60 days. 

The law will be in effect in Vinnytsia, Luhansk, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions. It is set to come into force at 2 p.m. on November 26 and will last until 2 p.m. on December 26.

A map showing the regions affected by November 26 martial law. By LP Luo

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said before the parliament vote that martial law will be introduced in the entire country in case of a ground attack on Ukraine.

Additionally citizens’ rights can be restricted under the new law, Oleksandr Turchynov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine announced earlier. Previously, Poroshenko said that the law “would not provide for restrictions of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens.”

READ MORE: Azov Sea Conflict: Russia Fires on Ukrainian Ship, Ukraine Retaliates

The November 26 parliament vote follows violent escalation near the Kerch Strait, which, according to the Ukrainian Naval Forces, saw Russian FSB shooting at a Ukrainian ship and capturing three ships altogether. Six Ukrainian naval officers were injured as a result of these actions while the fate of the 17 other officers who were on board of the ships remains unknown.

Russia only confirmed three Ukrainians being injured. At the same time, the Russian side could not clarify how many Ukrainian naval officers were on board of the three ships captured by Russia. It was originally believed that there were 23 but some sources claimed the number to actually be 24*.

Earlier on November 26, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sent a draft law to the Ukrainian parliament after declaring his full support of it and providing some clarification on what it would mean for Ukraine. Contrary to the 2015 bill “On the Legal Regime of Martial Law,” which stipulates things like a ban on “mass gatherings” among others, it provides a softer approach. Some points mentioned by Poroshenko include “no provision for immediate mobilization,” however reserve soldiers need to be at the ready. The president also said that the law does not stipulate Ukraine carrying out “offensive operations” or the “abandoning of peaceful settlement of the Donbas conflict with Russia.”

READ MORE: Azov Sea Crisis: Ukrainian President Supports Proposal for Martial Law

During the session, the parliament also voted for the fixed presidential election date of March 31.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) shakes hands with the First Deputy Chair of the parliament Iryna Gerashchenko during a parliament session on November 26 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo credit: Volodymyr Hontar / UNIAN

Two Ukrainian MPs earlier expressed concern that the election date could be changed following the originally planned 60-day martial law period. Reformist lawmaker from Poroshenko Bloc Mustafa Nayyem told Hromadske that it “will be strange to announce an election campaign while martial law in in place.” The election campaign is expected to start on December 30, 90 days before the election.

While Nayyem’s fellow party member Serhii Leshchenko made an even bolder statement on his Telegram channel saying that Poroshenko is trying to get the presidential election postponed until autumn to secure his chance of winning. Leshchenko later reiterated his protest during a live program on Hromadske comparing the implications of the law to the January 16 2014 draconian laws that former president Viktor Yanukovych tried to impose in the midst of the Euromaidan protests.

“[Poroshenko’s aim with martial law declaration] is clear. He is going to lose the election so he’s trying to postpone it or carry it out at a time when not the issues of corruption are discussed but when martial law is discussed. And he’s try to present himself as the supreme commander. It is clear that Poroshenko has no chance of getting reelected in any other way,” Leshchenko said.

According to the Ukrainian Minister of Social Politics Pavlo Rozenko, martial law will not affect salaries, pensions and any other social benefits and they will be paid “on time, in their full amount and with no restrictions.”  

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Relatives of Ukrainian Personnel Wounded in Kerch Strait Incident Speak to Hromadske

*The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) clarified on Nov. 27 (the day after this article was published) that there were in fact 24 Ukrainian naval officers on board of the captured vessels.

/By Maria Romanenko