The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, continues to ratchet up tensions, at least he continues to ratchet up the optics of tensions. On November 27, the order went out from the Combined Forces Operation Commander to the combat troops in Donbass to go on full alert. According to TASS:
The Ukrainian Armed Forces units deployed to Donbass have been put on full combat alert, the press center of the so-called “combined forces operation” said in a Facebook statement on Tuesday.
“In compliance with an order issued by Combined Forces Operation Commander Sergei Nayev, military servicemen have increased vigilance, armed units have been put on full combat alert,” the statement reads.
On Monday, Ukraine’s General Staff ordered to put the country’s Armed Forces on full combat alert.
In addition, a 30-say martial law was declared in the Vinnitsa, Lugansk, Nikolayevsk, Odessa, Sumy, Kharkov, Chernigov, Donetsk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, as well as in Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Sea of Azov, starting from November 28.
This latest update of a 30 day long martial law period supersedes the sixty day request that initially was reported. However these places are in a half-ring, all in the eastern part of the country, and many areas under sanctions are in regions not allegedly “controlled by Russia”, but are in fact regions where Ukrainian is the majority language.
In addition to the expected move to raise troop alert levels in Donbass (to the far east), the status of Martial Law is getting imposed on almost fifty percent of the country by land area. This status was approved for thirty days, but once in place, it is simple to extend it and extend it.
The Western-leaning EuroMaidan website is trying to characterize this as a preventative move against Russian aggression, based on Ukraine’s allegation that the Russians behaved aggressively in capturing and firing shots at three Ukrainian ships who reportedly entered the Kerch Strait without forewarning the Russian authorities in Crimea, as per mutual agreeement:
Following a Russian attack on three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian Parliament has greenlighted a decision to impose martial law in nearly half of the country. On 26 November, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted to impose martial law in 10 Oblasts of Ukraine for 30 days with a possibility of prolongation. The decision will come into force starting 9 AM on November 28, lasting until 27 December. 276 MPs out of 330 who took part in voting supported the bill.
The decision affects the Odesa, Maykolayiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Vinnytsia oblasts. They are located along the Russian border, Transnistria, and along the coast of the Black and Azov seas and are thought to be at greater risk of a Russian intervention.
According to the procedure, the decree on introducing martial law was introduced by the President on the suggestion of the National Security and Defense Council. Now that it has been approved by Parliament, the Cabinet of Ministers will develop the concrete plan to implement the new regime.
In a fiery speech in the Rada, where President Petro Poroshenko persuaded the MPs to support the law, he stated that rights of citizens will be restricted only in the case of a Russian intervention. As well, presidential elections will take place as planned, on 31 March 2019.
However, the Russian reports on this incident differ sharply, as some political analysts there note that Mr. Poroshenko is running an eight percent approval rating, and with an election approaching, the possibility is very strong that this move is for political optics and the corresponding capital this might give the beleagured Ukrainian president (emphasis added):
“Ukrainian navy sailors became a bargaining chip in the political game President Poroshenko and his associates play, who are ready to commit any crime trying to improve their chances to remain in power,” [Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai] Patrushev said.
“However, as is known, the chances are low under the current circumstances,” he added.
The Kerch Strait provocation points to Poroshenko’s plans to build his election campaign around fake threats, Patrushev said.
“After declaring martial law and partially restricting human rights and freedoms, he may call off the presidential election citing the need to protect the people of Ukraine,” he noted.
According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), on the morning of November 25, three ships from the Ukrainian Navy – the Berdyansk, the Nikopol and the Yany Kapu – illegally crossed Russia’s border and tried to carry out some illegal actions in Russian territorial waters later in the day. They ignored legitimate demands to stop issued by vessels belonging to the FSB Border Service and the Black Sea Fleet and continued maneuvering dangerously. In order to stop the Ukrainian ships, weapons had to be used. The three vessels were detained in Russian territorial waters. Three Ukrainian military servicemen suffered light wounds and were provided with medical assistance. Following the incident, Kiev a declared 30-day martial law in some of the country’s regions. At the same time, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) confirmed that the presidential election would be held on March 31, 2019, as it had been planned before.
“The border provocation once again shows that Poroshenko has no clear electoral program and plans to build his election campaign only around fake threats,” Patrushev said. “After declaring martial law and partially restricting human rights and freedoms, he may call off the presidential election citing the need to protect the people of Ukraine,” he noted.
According to Patrushev, “Kiev’s actions have been a constant source of threat, while the Sunday incident became another one on the list of the Ukrainian authorities’ crimes.” “The illegal border crossing by Ukrainian navy ships is undoubtedly a blatant violation of international maritime law and looks like a planned provocation,” he said.
Behind this activity may well be the issue of the Ukrainian government’s apparent inability to manage the country. The TASS report continued:
The Russian Security Council secretary pointed out that Poroshenko was unable to improve the dire situation in the country. “Kiev cannot tackle even the most pressing problems the impoverished Ukrainian people have been facing,” Patrushev noted. “The country’s industry has nearly collapsed, millions of Ukrainians have to work abroad, while most of those who stay in their home country earn scanty wages and face back pays,” he elaborated, adding that “many of the businessmen close to the Kiev authorities are involved in budget embezzlement, corruption, arms trading and fraudulent activities.”
Patrushev also pointed to the alarming epidemiological situation in Ukraine. “US-controlled biological laboratories have replaced the Soviet public health and disease control system,” he noted. “As a result, the situation is alarming as far as the spread of poliomyelitis is concerned, while the spread of tuberculosis, diphtheria and measles poses a threat to Ukraine’s neighboring countries,” the Russian Security Council secretary stressed.