Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko has successfully secured his plan to impose a month-long martial law in order to “[boost] Ukraine’s defence in the light of a growing aggression from Russia,” he said. The decree was overwhelmingly supported by The Ukrainian Parliament (Верхо́вна Ра́да Украї́ни) as a response to the clash in the Kerch Strip with the Russian navy on Sunday.
Martial law, which includes the imposition of direct military control, had not been introduced in Ukraine even in critical times like the Crimea annexation and the outbreak of conflict in Donbass, why the Sunday’s dispute has resulted in such a different reaction.
The upcoming Presidential election in March 2019 shows the vulnerable political position of Poroshenko. His approval ratings have recently been plummeting, and have given a large advantage to his opponent Yulia Tymoshenko. The martial law might strengthen the President’s public support in the event of increased Russian threat and country militarisation. Even though Poroshenko guarantees the date of the election will remain as it is, it is very likely to be influenced by politicising the developments in the region.
The Kerch Strait is a strait linking the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. After the annexation of Crimea, Russia built a bridge connecting the peninsula with its mainland. Under a 2003 treaty, both countries are granted shared territorial waters where every ship passing through the strait is obliged to notify the Crimean seaport of Kerch. Ukraine says that the vessels leaving the Ukrainian port of Odessa notified responsible authorities in advance, Russia denies it had received any warnings. Moscow accuses Kiev of staging the provocation in order to inflame the conflict between the two countries.
According to Ukrainian authorities, three ships had been seized with crew onboard. Six sailors have been injured. The aggression sparked protests near Russian Embassy in Kiev.