Russia seizes Ukrainian ships, Kyiv debates martial law that could delay election

Russia seizes Ukrainian ships, Kyiv debates martial law that could delay election

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could find himself in hot water when he meets his French counterpart in Paris today.

poroshenko ukraine martial law

Photo: President of Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could find himself in hot water when he meets his French counterpart in Paris today.

On Sunday morning, Russian forces seized three Ukrainian naval vessels that were seeking transit from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov via the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait. At least three Ukrainian personnel were injured in the skirmish.

While Moscow says the Ukrainian vessels illegally entered its waters, Kyiv insists that its navy was acting within the parameters of international law and that the seizure was illegal.

The UN Security Council is expected to condemn the attack on Monday, but any proposed resolution will be vetoed by Russia.

More significantly, President Poroshenko is expected to back a military proposal to introduce martial law when parliament convenes for a special session at 1400 GMT on Monday. If approved by lawmakers—which appears likely—martial law will grant increased powers to security officials.

Crucially, elections cannot be held while martial law is in place. This is significant given that Poroshenko faces re-election in March. With polls showing the Ukrainian president trailing to former Prime Minister Yulia Yumoshenko, some fear Sunday’s skirmish could be used to mask a power-grab by Poroshenko.

UPDATE: Ukraine’s parliament has voted to introduce of martial law in eastern and southeastern oblasts. The measures will last 30 days. Lawmakers also voted to confirm that March’s presidential election will go ahead.

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