Ukraine’s parliament voted Monday to impose martial law in parts of the country to fight what the Ukraine’s president called “escalating aggression” on the part of Russia after a naval confrontation near the Kerch straight in which Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels amid renewed tensions between the neighbors.
Western leaders and diplomats urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.S. blamed Russia for what it called “unlawful conduct” over Sunday’s incident in the Black Sea.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked lawmakers in Kiev to institute martial law, something the country did not do even during the worst of the fighting in the east that killed about 10,000 people.
“In fact, what happened on November 25th is an extraordinary event that took place for the first time in 4.5 years of Russian aggression. Officially, without tearing off chevrons, without “green men”, Russian troops in large numbers attacked the ships of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Petro Poroshenko said.
“Martial law doesn’t mean declaring a war,” he said. “It is introduced with the sole purpose of boosting Ukraine’s defense in the light of a growing aggression from Russia.”
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry already announced earlier in the day that its troops were on full combat alert in the country.
Ukraine’s Chief of the General Staff Viktor Muzhenko said that there were 23 naval officers on three military boats that were arrested by Russians. Ukrainian officials have no contact with the rest of the personnel of the detained vessels.