Martial law to be imposed in nearly half of Ukraine. Here is what will change
Following a Russian attack on three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian Parliament has greenlighted a decision to impose martial law in nearly half of the country. On 26 November, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted to impose martial law in 10 Oblasts of Ukraine for 30 days with a possibility of prolongation. The decision will come into force starting 9 AM on November 28, lasting until 27 December. 276 MPs out of 330 who took part in voting supported the bill.
The decision affects the Odesa, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Vinnytsia oblasts. They are located along the Russian border, Transnistria, and along the coast of the Black and Azov seas and are thought to be at greater risk of a Russian intervention.
According to the procedure, the decree on introducing martial law was introduced by the President on the suggestion of the National Security and Defense Council. Now that it has been approved by Parliament, the Cabinet of Ministers will develop the concrete plan to implement the new regime.
In a fiery speech in the Rada, where President Petro Poroshenko persuaded the MPs to support the law, he stated that rights of citizens will be restricted only in the case of a Russian intervention. As well, presidential elections will take place as planned, on 31 March 2019.
Debates over martial law on November 26
Following the Russian attack on three Ukrainian ships near Kerch, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko convenend an emergency session of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) at midnight on November 26, where a decision was made to submit a motion for enacting martial law in Ukraine to Parliament. An emergency session of Parliament was convened at 16:00, during which MPs clashed over the scope of the proposed martial law.
The most debated questions were whether the presidential elections scheduled for March 2019 would be postponed and the extent of territories affected by martial law.
Three ex-presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yushchenko released an appeal regarding the situation to the Parliament. In it, they did not support martial law idea, as it would “restrict the rights and freedoms of the citizens” and poses a risk of chaos.
Fearing elections being canceled, MPs blocked the rostrum of the Parliament. Initially, the NSDC proposed to impose martial law for 60 days. This would have postponed the elections, which were scheduled for 31 March 2019, as martial law rules out elections. However, after a compromise reached with the political parties, the term was decreased to 30 days, which would allow holding elections as planned, and limited its area to ten oblasts.
What will the martial law change?
The general provisions of martial law in Ukraine are outlined in the law “On the legal regime of martial law.” The Presidential decree calls upon state ministries to implement it.
The management of the country will pass to the military command. Together with the bodies of the executive power, military administrations and bodies of local self-governance should introduce and implement the measures of the legal regime.
The military administrations are temporary state bodies which can be created on the territories where martial law is introduced. The president decides to create the military administrations on the request of state administrations or military commanders.
As well, the presidential decree calls to increase defense expenditures, to bring civilian defense systems to full readiness, and create defense councils to help the military administration enforce martial law.
During martial law, a partial mobilization may be declared by the president as needed. During the NSDC meeting, Poroshenko said that there will be no full mobilization yet, but that reserves of the first line will be drawn upon.
However, during the NSDC meeting, President Poroshenko stressed that martial law will not infringe upon civil liberties of Ukrainians, and in Parliament repeated that they will be limited only in case of an intervention. Additionally, Information Ministry Chief Yuriy Stets said that limitations on freedom of speech will not be imposed, but called to be aware that enemy will attempt to sow panic and disinformation through social media.
Nevertheless, the law “On the legal regime of martial law” envisions 24 limitations. Among them are: reinforced surveillance of strategic state objects, using enterprises and private property for military needs, labor duty, curfews, travel limitations, document checks, bans on peaceful assemblies and political parties, regulation the work of the telecommunication companies and media and other actions.