Ukraine Declares Martial Law as Russia Seizes 3 Ukrainian Ships in Sea of Azov
The incident has caused international fears that the war in Ukraine simmering since 2014 may escalate.
Ukraine’s Parliament has approved a proposal by President Petro Poroshenko to declare martial law after Russian forces fired at three Ukrainian ships and seized them in the Sea of Azov.
Ukraine and Russia have been involved in a “cold’ conflict since 2014, after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in reaction to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv, which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West.
A pro-Russian insurgency possibly instigated and aided by Moscow followed shortly in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine and has been raging ever since. Because of Crimea’s annexation and the war in Eastern Ukraine, the EU has introduced sanctions against Russia.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have also been pitted against one another in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, with Russia claiming far larger territorial waters after annexing Crimea.
On Sunday, it captured three Ukrainian military vessels at the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, after accusing them of entering Russian waters illegally.
Ukraine and the West have condemned the Russian actions as contrary to international law.
Martial law was adopted on Monday by Ukraine’s Rada (parliament) with 276 votes in favor. It refers to border areas for a period of 30 days, AFP reports.
Fearing a Russian attack on land, Poroshenko had demanded martial law in the entire country but the Ukrainian opposition managed to limit the measure to the border regions.
It allows the Ukrainian government to mobilize citizens who have served in the military as well as to regulate the media and ban public gatherings.
Before the vote, Ukraine’s President declared the seizure of the Ukrainian vessels by Russia a “new phase of aggression.”
The incident caused concern in the West that it might escalate the war in Ukraine, leading to an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, with US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned Russia against “outlaw actions”.
“We don’t like what’s happening and hopefully it will get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They’re working on it too. We’re all working on it together,” US President Donald Trump later told reporters at the White House.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the war in Ukraine’s Donbass region since the pro-Russian insurgency broke out in April 2014, a month after Moscow invaded and annexed Crimea.
A total of 24 Ukrainian servicemen were detained on the three military vessels by the forces of Russia’s intelligence service FSB which oversees the borders.
“I condemn Russian use of force in Azov Sea. Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels and refrain from further provocations,” EU President Donald Tusk tweeted.
France’s Foreign Ministry declared “nothing appears to justify the use of force” by Russia, and urged it to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared any Russian “blockade” of the Sea of Azov to be “unacceptable” and proposed French-German mediation to resolve the crisis.
(Banner image: Research Gate)