Ukraine’s parliament voted to impose martial law Monday — one day after Russia captured three of its vessels off the coast of Crimea in a significant escalation of tensions in the region.
President Petro Poroshenko told Ukrainian lawmakers Monday that martial law was needed to counter mounting aggression from Moscow. He cited intelligence pointing to “a highly serious threat of a ground operation against Ukraine.”
A few hours later, the country’s parliament voted in favor of imposing martial law.
This is the first time martial law has been imposed in the four-year conflict that began with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has claimed the lives of at least 10,000 people.
“Martial law doesn’t mean declaring a war,” Poroshenko said. “It is introduced with the sole purpose of boosting Ukraine’s defense in light of a growing aggression from Russia.”
The law will go into effect Nov. 30 and last for 30 days, half the time Poroshenko originally sought. The decree will not cover all of Ukraine but rather the regions subject to “Russian aggression.”
The introduction of martial law came in response to the Russian coast guard’s decision to detain a tugboat and two gunships belonging to the Ukrainian navy. The incident also saw six Ukrainian crew members injured after the Russians opened fire on the ships.
Despite mounting concerns over Sunday's confrontation off the coast of Crimea, Russia has laid the blame on Kiev. Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the U.N., painted the incident as an example of Ukrainian leaders trying to provoke Russia for political purposes, telling an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting that Ukraine’s actions were “dangerous.”
The tough talk has caught the world's attention. The EU, NATO and a number of regional leaders have called for calm, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel voicing her concern during a phone call with Poroshenko.
President Donald Trump also weighed in, telling reporters Monday that everyone was working on the issue together.
“We don't like what's happening either way. We don't like what's happening,” Trump said.
Critics of the Ukrainian leader, whose popularity is waning, questioned why martial law was needed now despite all the previous Russian infractions in the country. Some questioned whether the emergency act would result in March's presidential elections being postponed.
Poroshenko sought to allay those criticisms by revising his original proposal for 60 days of martial law down to 30 days, in order to “do away with the pretexts for political speculation.”
Cover image: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures during a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Ukraine's president on Monday urged parliament to impose martial law in the country to fight "growing aggression from Russia." (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)