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Russian Ships Fired on Ukraine Navy Sailors in Crimea Waters, Poroshenko to Declare Martial Law Ahead of Election

3 Ukraine sailors wounded according to Moscow which says Ukrainian ships refused to stop. Ukraine is to hold presidential elections in March, Poroshenko is trailing badly

Russia has confirmed its vessels have used weapons to stop Ukrainian ships that had entered Russian waters in the Black Sea illegally. Three Ukrainian sailors were wounded and have been given medical assistance.

Russia has fired at a group of three Ukrainian vessels that entered its territorial waters near Crimea, the Russian Security Service (FSB) has confirmed. The ships were then seized and will be towed to the Crimean port of Kerch.

Three Ukrainian sailors, injured in the altercation, were given medical assistance by Russian servicemen. Their lives are out of danger.

Ukrainian Navy ships the ‘Berdiansk’, the ‘Nikopol’ and the ‘Yany Kapu’ with their crews have been detained for violating Russian territorial waters, the FSB said in a statement Sunday. They were ignoring "legal demands to stop" and "performing dangerous maneuvers," and the Russian warships had to open fire to force them to stop.

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Russia has launched a criminal investigation into the border breach.

The FSB is pointing out that Ukrainian authorities are aware of the procedure that regulates the passage of the military ships through Russian territorial waters.

Both sides have been accusing each other of violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Kiev argues that it had notified the Russian side in advance of its plan to sail from the Ukrainian Black Sea resort of Odessa to Mariupol, a port on the north coast of the Sea of Azov, a claim that the Russian coastguard denies.

The route goes through the Kerch strait, which separates Crimea from mainland Russia.

Kiev has called a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council [NSDC] to discuss imposing martial law, chairman Oleksandr Turchynov told media.

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NATO has urged both parties to show restraint. NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a statement that NATO has been “closely monitoring developments in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait,” while voicing support to Ukraine.

“NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigation rights in its territorial waters,”the statement read.

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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.

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Talks with the leaders of Ukraine-allied countries have also been planned for Monday, he said.

Poroshenko sought to assure the public that Kiev’s 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.

Martial law with a looming election

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.

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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 Ukraine’s 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 Poroshenko’s 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.

Source: RT
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