Ukraine under martial law from 28 November

World leaders urged Kiev and Moscow to de-escalate the naval conflict

Photo: EPA Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to lawmakers during extraordinary session of Parliament in Kiev, 26 November

Ukrainian parliament backed later on Monday President Petro Poroshenko's motion to impose martial law in the wake of the incident near Russia-occupied Crimea when Russian border guards opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels before seizing the ships and their crews. The martial law, which starts on 28 November, will include a partial mobilisation and strengthening of the country's air defence. Poroshenko revised his original proposal from a 60-day period of martial law to just 30 days.

Parliament voted overwhelmingly for the motion following a five-hour debate.

Ukraine said two of its small gunboats and one tugboat were attacked by Russian naval forces on Sunday after entering the Kerch Strait en route to the city of Mariupol. Video of the incident released by Ukrainian officials appeared to show a Russian ship ramming the Ukrainian tugboat.

In an emergency Security Council meeting on Monday, requested by Ukraine, the UN top political official urged restraint from both sides to prevent dangerous escalation.

Russia, meanwhile, called Ukraine's actions "dangerous" and said the three Ukrainian vessels illegally crossed into Russian waters. Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council the weekend incident was another example of Ukrainian leaders trying to provoke Russia for political purposes. He claimed Porschenko needed a war ahead of the March election to gain support from the public.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukrainian President assured him that should martial law be introduced in the country it would not have a negative impact on next year's presidential election and would not hinder the working of the democratic institutions in Ukraine.

"I condemn Russian use of force in Azov Sea. Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels & refrain from further provocations," EU President Donald Tusk tweeted. France also called on Russia to release the sailors and ships, with the foreign ministry saying "nothing appears to justify the use of force" by Russia. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said any Russian "blockade" of the Sea of Azov was "unacceptable" and proposed French-German mediation to resolve the crisis.


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