Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that he will propose declaring martial law in the wake of the altercation in the Black Sea that saw Russian military seize Ukrainian vessels for breaching Russian territorial waters.
The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) has supported declaring martial law for 60 days. The motion will now go before the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, for final approval.
The Ukrainian leader says Kiev does not plan to carry out any offensive operations if martial law is imposed.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Poroshenko said that Kiev has asked NATO and the EU to “coordinate our actions to ensure the protection of Ukraine.”
“We appeal to the whole pro-Ukrainian international coalition: we must unite efforts,” Poroshenko said, adding that he would discuss further steps with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday.
Talks with the leaders of Ukraine-allied countries have also been planned for Monday, he said.
Poroshenko sought to assure the public that Kievs decision to impose martial law will not infringe upon the rights and freedoms of its citizens, noting that Ukraine will only carry out defensive actions to protect its territory and people.
He claimed that the imposition of martial law will not affect the standoff in the breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk Republics, that have been in a state of a shaky truce with Kiev.
What martial law means
Martial law allows the Ukrainian government to limit a range of civil freedoms otherwise protected by the constitution, such as the freedom of press, the freedom of movement and the freedom of assembly.
Under martial law, Kiev can, for instance, introduce restrictions on travel up to barring residents from leaving the country altogether. The martial law also envisages stricter control at border checkpoints, that may include thorough searches of vehicles, cargo and other belongings.
The move also allows for increased control over the media. Publications, TV and radio channels can be shut down if considered to constitute a threat to Ukraines national security.
Martial law gives authorities the right to ban peaceful rallies, protests and demonstrations, as well as other mass actions. It also allows to potentially ban activities by political parties and public associations.
In addition, neither the upcoming presidential, nor parliamentary elections can be held with martial law in place. However, since martial law can only last for 60 days unless extended, it is set to expire before the votes, which are scheduled for March and October respectively.
The martial law comes some four months ahead of a presidential election in Ukraine, with Poroshenkos rating hitting rock bottom. According to a recent poll, only 7.8 percent of Ukrainians are ready to cast their ballots for the incumbent Ukrainian leader in the March vote. The race is being topped by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with some 18.5 percent of the vote. Poroshenko is even trailing behind a famous Ukrainian comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is in second place with 10,8 percent – despite the fact that he hasn't yet confirmed he was running.