Ukraine: Putin establishes martial law in the annexed territories
MOSCOW | Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the establishment of martial law in the four Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia annexed in September by Moscow.
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Mr. Putin announced this measure during a meeting of his Security Council broadcast on television. The Kremlin then issued a decree confirming the entry into force of martial law in these territories from Thursday midnight.
These territories « had established martial law before their attachment to the Russian Federation, but it is necessary to formalize this regime by following Russian legislation », declared Vladimir Putin.
He justified this measure by saying that Kyiv refused to negotiate with Moscow and continued according to him to « bombard » the civilian population in these regions.
« The neo-Nazis (Ukrainians) openly use terrorist methods (…) They send groups of saboteurs to our territory, » he added, denouncing in particular the attack on the Crimean bridge and » nuclear infrastructures », without specifying which ones.
According to the decree, the Russian government must within three days propose concrete measures to be applied in these territories.
Russian legislation provides for a series of measures in the event of the establishment of martial law: reinforcement of security measures, curfew, ban on public gatherings, evacuation of strategic companies, ban on leaving the territories concerned, internment of the population, establishment of military censorship in telecommunications, etc.
The decree also establishes a reinforced security regime, described as a « medium-level reaction regime », in the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014, as well as in the Russian regions of Krasnodar, Rostov, Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh and Kursk, located close to Ukraine.
In the central federal district, where the capital Moscow is located, a reinforced alert regime is also established, according to this decree.
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Moscow evacuates civilians from Kherson
Russia began Wednesday to evacuate the population of Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine where its army is by its own admission facing a « very difficult » situation, an operation which, according to a Ukrainian official, is similar to a » deportation » of civilians aimed at creating « panic ».
At the same time, the Russian bombardments continued on the whole of Ukrainian territory, in the north, including Kyiv, but also in the west, an area generally more spared from the fighting.
Anti-aircraft defense batteries shot down « several Russian missiles » over the capital, said its mayor, Vitaly Klitschko. Explosions were heard there by AFP journalists in the early afternoon.
Since Monday, Kyiv has been attacked several times by Russian suicide drones which have targeted energy infrastructure and killed at least five people.
Further north, another unmanned aircraft, Iranian-made, exploded in Cherniguiv and two Russian missiles were intercepted in its vicinity, the Ukrainians said, who reported three hospitalized injuries.
In the western part, « the enemy hit the Burshtynska coal-fired power plant », which started a fire that was later brought under control, the Ivano-Frankivsk regional authorities said.
The Vinnytsia region, also in the west, has also been targeted by Russian missiles, according to its governor.
« Deportation »
In southern Ukraine, the Russian administration of the Kherson region assured Wednesday that the evacuations of civilians had begun. It plans to move « 50,000 to 60,000 » in a few days to the other bank of the Dnieper.
The city of Kherson, occupied since the spring, will also be evacuated, faced with the advance of Ukrainian troops, said the head of the pro-Russian municipal authorities Vladimir Saldo, promising that the Russian soldiers would resist « until death ». .
General Sergey Surovikin, recently appointed head of Russian operations in Ukraine, admitted on Tuesday that the situation there was “very difficult”.
A local deputy, Serguiï Khlan, however estimated on Wednesday that this “announced evacuation” amounted to a “deportation” of the population, “as in Soviet times”. « Its goal is to create a kind of panic in Kherson and an image (to feed) propaganda » Russian, he denounced.
For him, the Russians are using the evacuations of civilians as a « pretext » to justify « their withdrawal from Kherson and more generally from the right bank » of the Dnieper.
« Martial Law »
Also in the southern part of Ukraine, around fifty employees of the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, in Russian hands since March, are « still prisoners », deplored the Ukrainian operator Energoatom, while, since the beginning of war, others were « tortured » or even « killed ».
In another city conquered – after being devastated – by Russian troops, Mariupol, the administration had a monument to the victims of the 1930s famine in Ukraine dismantled on Wednesday, which kyiv describes as a genocide organized by Stalin, but which Moscow minimizes.
In total, « around five million inhabitants » of the Ukrainian territories annexed in September by Moscow are currently in Russia, where they have « found refuge », for his part affirmed the secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev.
These are the regions of Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia in which Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the establishment of martial law on Wednesday – a « null and void » measure, reacted Ukrainian diplomacy -, while also mentioning the establishment of a reinforced alert system in Moscow.
The Russian army, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, is on the defensive along most of the front in Ukraine, retreating since September in the north as well as in the east and south. The only section where it is still advancing is located near the city of Bakhmout (east), which it has been trying to take since the summer.
As winter approaches, it is currently bombarding a large number of energy infrastructures throughout Ukraine.
Faced with this situation, « we are working on the creation of mobile electricity supply points for critical infrastructure in cities and villages », Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained on Wednesday during a « strategic meeting ». .
UN scrutinizes Iranian drones
At the international level, the UN Security Council was to meet behind closed doors on Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. GMT in New York on the use of drones designed by Iran in the war in Ukraine, at the request of the West. .
The European Union had previously announced that it had gathered « evidence » demonstrating the Iranian origin of the Russian unmanned aircraft that attacked Ukrainian territory and was preparing sanctions against Tehran.
Iran for its part has repeatedly denied in recent days supplying weapons and in particular drones to Russia for this conflict.
Israel meanwhile said on Wednesday that it would not deliver weapons to kyiv. “Our policy towards Ukraine will not change. We will continue to support the West and stand by it, we will not supply armament systems to Ukraine,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
In a completely different register, President Zelensky welcomed the awarding of the prestigious Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament to the Ukrainians, saluting his people who are fighting for “freedom and democracy”.