Tuesday 17 September 2019

Martial law to be declared in Ukraine as EU urges Russia to show restraint

Emergency measures: Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko signed the bill to impose martial law for two months. Photo: Reuters
Emergency measures: Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko signed the bill to impose martial law for two months. Photo: Reuters

Carla de Wintourz

UKRAINIAN President Petro Poroshenko has signed a bill to impose martial law in the country in the wake of Russia's seizure of three ships and their crews.

Mr Poroshenko proposed imposing martial law in the country after Russian border guards opened fire on three Ukrainian military vessels in the Sea of Azov.

The bill that was published by Mr Poroshenko's office calls for martial law to be imposed for two months.

The emergency measures will, if adopted by lawmakers, include a partial mobilisation, a strengthening of the country's air defence as well as a plethora of vaguely worded steps such as the "strengthening" of anti-terrorism measures and "information security".

Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the Ukrainian seamen captured off the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea should be treated as prisoners of war.

Mr Klimkin told reporters in Kiev that the government is in talks with the Red Cross to make sure the captured seamen are treated as prisoners of war.

Six Ukrainians were injured after Russian border guards opened fire on three Ukrainian military vessels in the Kerch Strait on Sunday.

The vessels and the crews were captured by the Russians.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether the Kremlin considers them prisoners of war.

Nato and the European Union issued demands for restraint after Ukraine accused Russian border guards of damaging two of the armoured artillery boats and injuring six crew members.

Meanwhile, an aide to Polish President Andrzej Duda says sanctions on Russia should be stepped up following its seizure of the ships.

Krzysztof Szczerski said Russia's recent actions against Ukraine's vessels were an "open violation" of international law and was "another attempt to destabilise the region".

Mr Szczerski said Poland sees the need to "take into consideration and discuss among allies the stepping-up of sanctions on Russia".

He said Mr Duda has spoken over the phone with Mr Poroshenko about the naval standoff in the Black Sea.

"Weapons were used with the aim of forcibly stopping the Ukrainian warships," the Ukrainro ian defence ministry said in a statement circulated to Russian state media.

Ukraine denied its ships had done anything wrong and accused Russia of military aggression.

The European Union said in a statement it expected Russia to restore freedom of passage via the Kerch Strait and urged both sides to act with the utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas yesterday called Russia's blockade of access to the Sea of Azov "unacceptable" and urged an easing of tensions with Ukraine.

"The developments are troubling," he tweeted.

"A Russian blockade of the passage to the Sea of Azov is unacceptable.

"It is important that the blockade be lifted. We call on both sides to de-escalate."

About 50-100 people gathered outside the Russian embassy in Kiev to protest against Moscow's actions.

An embassy vehicle was set on fire, according to reports.

Irish Independent

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