Ukraine puts its armed forces on full combat alert
The Ukrainian armed forces have been put on full combat alert by the decision of the chief of the country’s General Staff.
According to the press service of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, in accordance with the National Security and Defense Council’s decision on imposing martial law, the chief of the General Staff and commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces ordered to put the Ukrainian armed forces’ units on full combat alert.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has also been put on heightened alert.
"Counterintelligence measures have been strengthened to prevent further provocations by the Russian special services on the territory of Ukraine and destabilise the situation inside the country," the statement reads.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the imposition of martial law in the country would not affect the situation in Donbass, and did not mean that Kiev would conduct an offensive military operation.
There were earlier reports that three Ukrainian warships, namely the Berdyansk, the Nikopol and the Yany Kapu, had illegally crossed Russia’s state border early on Sunday, before making another attempt of committing illegal actions in the country’s territorial waters later in the evening, according to the Russian Federal Security Service’s Border Service in Crimea. The Ukrainian vessels ignored legitimate demands of the Coast Guard of the FSB Border Service and the Black Sea Fleet for an immediate stop, performing dangerous maneuvers. Weapons had been used in order to stop the Ukrainian ships, which were detained in the Russian territorial waters. These vessels were later delivered to the port of Kerch,
Criminal proceedings had been initiated on violation of the state border of the Russian Federation. After the ships had started moving toward the Kerch Strait, the passage of civil ships through the strait was closed.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook that the incident was characteristic of Ukrainian behaviour – provoke, pressure and blame for aggression.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said NATO "fully supports Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity" and is calling on Russia "to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea," CNN reported.
Poroshenko said at the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council that he will hold consultations with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in connection with the situation in the Kerch Strait.
According to the media, radicals threw smoke bombs and smoke flares at the Russian Embassy in Kiev, Kiev police chief Andriy Kryschenko arrived there.
Now the Kerch Strait is open for the movement of civil ships: they already started passing through the strait.
First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the main purpose of Ukraine's provocations is the abolition of presidential elections. "I think that Ukrainians will try to draw world attention to Russia as an aggressor country. They want to get new loans and political support from allies, but the most important thing for Poroshenko is to cancel the presidential election next spring. The introduction of martial law, which may happen in two months, will mean an automatic cancellation of the presidential elections and the continuation of Poroshenko’s rule," he explained.
Deputy director of the Institute of the CIS Vladimir Zharikhin agreed with Dzhabarov. "The most important thing for Poroshenko is to impose the martial law, which he did last night. On the one hand, he expects it to united the population and improve his rating, and if it fails, under the pretext of martial law, he will be able to cancel the election. On the other hand, Poroshenko decided to try to disrupt Putin’s meeting with Trump. Here Kiev is at a certain risk. Trump is interested in the meeting with Putin to agree on certain directions, so Poroshenko did him an ill turn, which creates problems for the Ukrainian president himself," the expert recalls.
"Although Poroshenko said it does not mean war, he only wants to impose martial law, however, further provocations in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait can be expected. Of course, Kiev has little power for it, but ambiguity of a bilateral agreement between Russia and Ukraine after Crimea entered Russia allows them to conduct provocations, citing international law. Formally, they have grounds, so they will continue to play this card," Vladimir Zharikhin warned.