Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is imposing martial law after his country’s ships faced off with Russian ships near Crimea. The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovnaya Rada, has at this time not yet signed off on this order, but they are expected to do so.
The martial law status will be in effect from November 26 to January 26, about sixty days.
This happened because Ukrainian ships ventured deliberately into Russian territorial waters near the Crimean Peninsula, apparently not notifying Russian authorities before doing so, though the Ukrainians claim they did warn of their crossing.
RT chronicled the events from the Russian point of view, which we provide here with emphases added:
The waters near the Crimean peninsula were the site of a tense standoff between Russian and Ukrainian ships that involved a chase, some gunfire, and fighter jets, followed by strong statements from Moscow and Kiev.
The Ukranian vessels were sailing between two Ukrainian ports: from Odessa in the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Azov Sea. The only waterway that connects these is the Kerch Strait between Crimea and mainland Russia. Kiev says it notified Moscow in advance that its navy ships would be sailing through the area. Moscow denies that it was given warning.
While both Russia and Ukraine have freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait under a 2003 treaty, there are detailed technical rules on how vessels should pass through the narrow, complex waterway. All traffic in the area is controlled by the Crimean sea port of Kerch, and every ship should contact the facility, report her route and destination, and receive permission to sail through the Strait.
At around 7am Moscow time (4am GMT) on Sunday, two artillery boats and a tugboat belonging to the Ukrainian Navy crossed the Russian maritime border in the Black Sea and headed to the Kerch Strait.
These ships had not followed the procedure, said the Russian Federal Security Service responsible for maintaining order at the border.
The Russian officers repeatedly asked the Ukrainian vessels to leave Russia’s territorial waters, but they ignored those requests. The ships also entered waters that had been temporarily closed to navigation.
Meanwhile, around 11:30am Moscow time (08:30am GMT), two more Ukrainian vessels departed the Azov Sea port of Berdyansk and approached the Kerch Strait from the other side, but then turned back and returned to port.
A giant bulk freighter accompanied by several Russian military vessels blocked the only passage through the Kerch strait for security reasons. The Russian military also scrambled aircraft, while the situation remained tense. Videos from the site showed Russian Ka-52 gunships cruising under the Crimea Bridge. Later, they were joined by several Su-25 strike fighters.
Ukrainian vessels continued their journey despite warnings from the Russian authorities. The Ukrainian Navy said the military vessels were sailing from the port city of Odessa to the Azov port of Mariupol as part of a scheduled routine transfer and claimed that it warned the Russian authorities about the trip in advance.
The FSB denounced the actions of the Ukrainian vessels as “provocation.” A video released by Russian authorities shows the Ukrainian vessels maneuvering in close proximity to the Russian ones.
At midnight, the FSB released a statement, saying that Russian warships had to open fire after the three Ukrainian ships ignored “legal demands to stop” and continued “performing dangerous maneuvers.”
Three Ukrainian sailors were wounded and given medical assistance, while the ships were seized. The group of ships that were heading to the strait from the Azov Sea turned back to their port.
Kiev uses “bandit methods” to achieve its goals, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said following the incident near the Kerch Strait. Ukraine “first stages a provocation, then plays power games, and [eventually] accuses [another side] of aggression,” she continued.
Companion news pieces by RT and Sputnik News reported on President Poroshenko’s initiative to ask his Parliament for a martial law declaration for Ukraine.
However, this is a very strange response. Placing the entire country of Ukraine under martial law because of a naval incident with Russia makes absolutely no sense.
However, this is how things operate in Ukraine, and there is of course a bigger motive. Sputnik News gives some indication as to what that might be by describing what martial law in Ukraine would actually accomplish (again, we add emphasis):
One of the key aspects of Ukrainian citizens lives that will be affected by martial law is their right to participate in elections and referendums. The proposed martial law will last for 60 days, meaning that it will at least affect the presidential election campaign that is due to start in 2019, and, considering the law can be prolonged, may even affect the elections themselves, which are scheduled for 31 March 2019. In other words, President Petro Poroshenko will be able to keep his post as long as martial law lasts.
[The] same goes for the parliament, which can’t be re-elected while martial law is in effect. If it lasts for little over a year, the elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which are to take place on 27 October 2019, will also be postponed. Furthermore, both the parliament and the president won’t be able to amend the Ukrainian Constitution, including the clauses regarding martial law.
Limitations of Citizens’ Rights
Although certain fundamental rights can’t be alienated even during martial law, Ukrainians will still be stripped of some of their rights, apart from the right to vote. Namely, the government will be able to ban any gatherings, strikes, and protests if it considers them ‘threatening’. Kiev will also be able to impose a curfew and limit citizens’ movements across the country, if it deems it necessary.
Additional Powers for the Government
In addition to all that, the government gains the right to expropriate any private property for military needs, although owners are eligible for compensation in such cases. Plus any person eligible for military service can be immediately mobilised if the government demands it.
Also, Kiev will be able to command any plant or factory to switch production to a military footing for the duration of martial law. At the same time, working hours and conditions can also be altered by a government decree, although workers retain their right to rest and minimal pay.
Failure to abide by any of these demands and limitations is punishable just like as any violation of the regular law. The government can prolong martial law as long as it finds that the threat to the state’s sovereignty or intergrity continues.
Ukraine’s activity has been most ominous over the last several months. The country’s leader worked with US assistance to get the Ecumenical Patriarch to “restore” clerical status to anathematized Filaret Denisenko, and plans are continuing at a furious pace to try to get Ukraine to have its own “autocephalous” “Orthodox” Church, which, judging from the statements of Denisenko, Poroshenko and others, is not focused on Jesus Christ and salvation at all, but only on hardcore nationalist “Ukrainianism.”
Imposing martial law on his own people is an indication that Poroshenko may be concerned about two things:
1. He is preparing for war with Russia.
2. He is afraid of his own population rejecting his actions, hence the quick move to martial law following an incident that, while serious, does not match the specifications of some national disaster or crisis that would make such a move necessary.