Regions opposed to President Poroshenko targeted under political declaration
On Nov. 26, 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared martial law in 10 of its 25 provinces. The last time Ukraine took such drastic measures was when it became independent from Russia in 1991, according to The Washington Post.
Al Jazeera reported that Ukraine declared martial law in response to a Russian attack and seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels trying to traverse the Kerch Strait between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula. 24 crew members on board the Ukrainian vessels have been arrested by Russian authorities. According to Poroshenko, in his live-streamed press conference on Saturday, a consequence of these actions is that over 80,000 Russian soldiers are currently stationed at the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine’s bordersand the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
President Poroshenko also said that Russia currently has stationed 900 tanks, 2,300 armored combat vehicles, 1,400 artillery and rocket systems, more than 500 military planes and 300 helicopters in and around Ukraine. In addition, Poroshenko believes that Russia also has more than eight submarines and 80 military ships in the Sea of Azov, the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea.
Military conflict has been happening between Ukraine and Russia for nearly five years. According to The Washington Post, over 10,000 people have been killed as a consequence of this conflict, and Ukraine has ceased to have control over Crimea and parts of the Donbass region.
So what prompted Poroshenko to suddenly issue martial law? Many Ukrainian lawmakers expressed in an emergency session of the country’s parliament the belief that the move is politically motivated, according to Politico.
In the same reports from The Washington Post, it is believed by political deputies in the southeast of Ukraine that Poroshenko seeks to manipulate the Ukrainian political process to extend his stay as president. By issuing martial law in those 10 provinces, Poroshenko can restrict constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly within those provinces.
The Washington Post also reported that approximately 40 percent of the Ukraine’s population now lives in the ten provinces under martial law. These provinces, in the south and east of Ukraine, are the ones where political opposition to Poroshenko is the strongest. This is evidenced by recent polls from the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), which show that Poroshenko’s support is about half of what it is in the western and central Ukraine than in the ten provinces currently under martial law.
Without manipulating the political process, Poroshenko’s chances of winning in the next election seem very slim. Recent polls from KIIS show that less than 12 percent of voters would most likely support him in the next election. Poroshenko’s longtime rival Yulia Tymoshenko currently leads the polls. This may suggest why Poroshenko would have had motivation to issue martial law.