Putin warns against ‘reckless’ moves after Ukraine declares martial law
- Martial law gives Kiev power to mobilise citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies
- Russian leader expressed ‘serious concern’ about martial law in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned Ukraine against any “reckless acts” after Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow’s seizure of three of its navy vessels.
The Ukrainian parliament late on Monday voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko’s request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days.
The move came after Russian forces fired on, boarded and captured three of Kiev’s ships on Sunday off the coast of Crimea, sparking the most dangerous crisis between the ex-Soviet neighbours in years.
The incident was the first major confrontation at sea in the long-running conflict pitting Ukraine against Moscow and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.
Martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilise citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas.
In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin expressed “serious concern” about martial law, the Kremlin said.
He said he hoped Berlin could intervene with Ukrainian authorities “to dissuade them from further reckless acts”.
Moscow has so far resisted calls to release the three ships or the 24 sailors it has detained.
A lawyer for one of the sailors, said 21 of them were expected to appear in court in Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea. Three others were wounded in the clash and being treated in a Crimean hospital, the lawyer said.
Moscow accuses them of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings from its border guards, with officials suggesting they could face criminal prosecution.
Russian officials have accused Kiev of planning the confrontation to drum up support for Poroshenko before elections next year and convincing Western governments to impose more sanctions on Russia.
Western governments have rallied behind Kiev in the dispute, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov and of taking military action without justification.
Kiev urged the United States and European Union to impose more sanctions on Russia over the latest incident.
Britain, Canada, France, Germany and others expressed support for Kiev on Monday.
Pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia on Tuesday denounced the reaction as “predictably anti-Russian”.
US President Donald Trump suggested it was up to European governments to handle the crisis.
“We don’t like what’s happening and hopefully it will get straightened out. I know Europe is not – they are not thrilled. They’re working on it too. We’re all working on it together,” Trump told reporters.