Ukraine After Martial Law: Neither Peace, Nor War

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Written by Dmitry Babich; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

In Ukraine, the electoral campaign preceding the presidential elections scheduled for March 31, 2019, officially kicked off on December 31, 2018. Meanwhile, the martial law imposed on 10 of the country’s regions (with more than half of Ukraine’s population living in them) was lifted days before the campaign started – on December 26. The martial law, which continued for one month, granted Ukraine’s unpopular president Petro Poroshenko dictatorial powers. He could shut down any media outlets, cancel and postpone any elections, arrest any people suspected of “collaboration” with Russia for an indefinite period of time. Protest rallies and political activities, such as party conventions and parliamentary investigations, were also put on hold.

Ukraine After Martial Law: Neither Peace, Nor War

The question is: can the elections, due to be held 3 months after the ending of the martial law, be considered free and fair? And can president Poroshenko be tempted to impose the martial law again before the elections? In any democratic country, Poroshenko would have rather slim chances with his low voter approval rating at 11.6 percent (the data from the latest poll conducted by the Kiev-based International Sociology Institute). The strongest candidate, the former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is 10 points ahead of him with 21.6 percent.

Poroshenko imposed the martial law on November 26 because of the arrest of three Ukrainian military vessels near the Kerch straits in the Black Sea, where both Ukraine and Russia have big ports and military bases. The Russian side claimed that the Ukrainian vessels illegally entered the Russian territorial waters before trying (unsuccessfully) to enter the Kerch Strait – a narrow water pass connecting the Black Sea with the Azov Sea. That sea is a shallow water reservoir, most of it unfit even for medium-sized military ships. Just a few years ago no one could imagine the Azov Sea being unimportant strategically, since Russia controlled Azov since the 17th century and almost all the population living on its shores was Russian-speaking. The biggest Ukrainian port on the Azov Sea, Mariupol, with its Russian population, was part of the anti-Maidan rebellion in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine in 2014. The city also took part in the unrecognized referendum on federalization of Ukraine that same year, but in a few weeks, in May 2014, Mariupol was seized by the Ukrainian army, which was already advancing against the rebellion on Donetsk and Lugansk, using tanks, aviation and artillery.

Now the Azov Sea suddenly became hugely important in the eyes of both the EU and the US. After the two Ukrainian small navy ships and a tug boat (with 24 people on board) were arrested by Russians for entering the waters which even before Crimea’s reunification with Russia were considered Russian waters, both the US and the EU suddenly started taking the problems of the Kerch Strait close to heart. President Trump cancelled his scheduled meeting with president Putin in Argentina in the end of 2018, saying the two leaders would meet when the Ukrainian seamen and ships are returned to Ukraine. France’s and Germany’s leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel on the eve of the New Year suddenly developed a strong desire “to see the Ukrainian seamen celebrating the holidays with their families,” making a special strong-worded statement against Russia on the subject.

“It is interesting to note that, when the Ukrainian border guards in March 2018 arrested 10 seamen aboard a fishing vessel Nord in March 2018 inside the Azov Sea, Merkel and Macron did not make any protesting statements,” comments Bogdan Bezpalko, the head of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies at the Moscow State University. “That fishing boat was operating from Crimea, the seamen were the residents of a fishing village there. So, formally, they were Ukrainian citizens for the Ukrainian authorities. (Ukraine still considers Crimea its territory, despite the region’s voting for reunification with Russia in 2014 – D.B.). But the fishermen were still arrested for pursuing economic activity from Crimea, which is “an occupied territory” in the eyes of Kiev. The sailors spent several months in Ukraine against their will, and the captain is still detained there. And these people were not military, they did not try to pass under the strategically important Crimean Bridge with arms and without permissions. Similar situations happened to other Russian vessels, but the EU did not react. Now it does.”

The hypocrisy of the American and European leaders with their numerous “concerns about the state of democracy” became especially evident, when no one in the US and the EU protested against Poroshenko’s decision to impose the martial law after the incident near Kerch Strait, which was no match to the tragic peak of the civil war in 2014-2015. According to Ukrainian opinion polls, no less than 60 percent of Ukrainians did not approve of Poroshenko’s decision, seeing in it only an attempt to stay in power, having nothing to do with defense of the country.

“If Poroshenko needed additional powers to use arms against a possible Russian aggression, he did not have to impose a martial law,” said Mikhail Pogrebinsky, head of the Kiev-based Center for Conflict Studies. “In 2014 Poroshenko used aviation, artillery and tanks against the rebellion in Donbass, without any martial laws. He just called it an “anti-terrorist operation” and used the most destructive weapons, without any consequences from the West. So, people in Ukraine don’t trust the president now, they see in the martial law just another trick aimed at cancelling elections or winning them dishonestly.”

Macron’s and Merkel’s demand to Russia “to provide a secure, speedy and unhampered” passage of all international vessels through the Kerch Strait (something Russia has never refused to do) also smacks of hypocrisy. The Russian foreign ministry pointed to the fact that Ukraine’s military vessels passed through the Kerch Strait weeks before the incident of November 25. Nevertheless, American state department’s chief negotiator on the issues of Russo-Ukrainian conflict, Kurt Volker, threatened Russia with additional sanctions from both the US and Europe for “hampering international navigation.”

“We are used to sanctions and do not expect justice from the West,” explained Vladimir Zharikhin, the head of the Ukrainian department at the Moscow-based Institute for CIS Studies. “What is sad, it is the consequences of the confrontation for the Ukrainian election. A chance to change Ukraine’s disastrous policy line is being missed.”

On December 28 Poroshenko convened a special closed meeting of the country’s top generals and security officials to discuss the outcome of the martial law. Poroshenko said he actually would have preferred to keep the martial law, but the requirement to have a three months long electoral campaign made this variant impossible. However, Poroshenko’s chances of winning increased – even without an increase in his ratings, he saw his enemies demoralized. Despite the fact that Yulia Tymoshenko warned about Poroshenko’s plans to cancel the elections by an imposition of the martial law as early as in July this year, her faction did not put up much of a resistance to Poroshenko’s idea (the vote in the Rada was 270 against 60 in favor of the martial law). Tymoshenko’s faction avoided a fight. And a fighter which does not fight – this fighter has lost already.

Local observers note that Poroshenko looks set to receive the support of the West, and that increases his chances of winning the election, even if some tampering with the vote takes place. As for a new “series” of martial law, there are lots of enthusiasts for this kind of solution in Ukraine.

For example, a Rada deputy named Vitaly Kupryi registered in the Ukrainian parliament a draft law, which requires the president to declare Ukraine “in the state of war with Russian Federation,” cutting all transit of Russian oil and gas through Ukraine (an idea not likely to receive support from the EU).

So, the likeliest outcome will be a state of tension, “neither peace nor war,” which would allow people not to see a dramatic worsening of their situation while allowing Poroshenko to stay in power.

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  • AM Hants

    Who is behind this crowd?

    EURASIAUNITED STATES
    How To Be A US Tax-Exempt Organization: Find Ways To Smear Russia
    “Center for European Policy Analysis” contributions are tax-deductible…https://www.fort-russ.com/2019/01/how-to-be-a-us-tax-exempt-organization-find-ways-to-smear-russia/

    ……………………

    CEPA Who we are: The Center for European Policy Analysis is the leading research institute dedicated to the study of Central-East Europe and Russia.

    ………………………

    LARGER THAN JUST VLADIMIR PUTIN…
    Edward Lucas dissects the many arms of the Kremlin…https://www.cepa.org/larger-than-putin

    ………………………

    ENCOURAGING U.S. LEADERSHIP ON UKRAINE

    CEPA Releases Bipartisan Open Letter to Raise the Costs on Russian Military Aggression

    On December 12, 2018, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) released a bipartisan Open Letter calling for the United States to raise the costs on Russia for its recent military escalation against Ukraine. Co-signed by 50 distinguished experts, former officials, and previous ambassadors, the Letter urges President Donald Trump to “swiftly raise the costs on Russia for its latest illegal actions—and by making visible preparations to impose even higher costs for future aggression.” …

    The Letter lays out six steps for demonstrating strength and resolve to Russia:

    First, aggressively implementing and enforcing existing U.S. sanctions against Russia to the
    fullest extent allowed by law.

    Second, providing additional security assistance to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities,
    specifically by providing systems such as radars, coastal defense missiles, ISR equipment, and
    patrol boats for defense and deterrence against future attack on Ukraine’s Black and Azov Sea
    littoral zones.

    Third, employing the bully pulpit of your office to ensure that all European allies hold firm in
    maintaining their own financial penalties on Russia for its previous illegal actions in Crimea and
    press our allies to maintain a robust NATO maritime presence in the Black Sea in order to
    defend freedom of navigation.

    Fourth, immediately imposing either new or more restrictive sanctions on Russian financial
    instruments and banks, including Vnesheconombank (VEB), Promsvyazbank, Gazprombank,
    and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

    Fifth, rallying our European allies through all available means to persuade the German
    government to suspend its official support for the Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on
    account of Moscow’s latest aggression.

    Sixth, taking visible and obvious steps that prepare new and immediate U.S. sanctions on the
    Nord Stream 2 pipeline—and assert the willingness to implement them.

    Co-signers of the effort include a former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, four former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretaries of Defense, two former U.S. Generals, seven former U.S. Ambassadors, and two former foreign Ambassadors in the United States, among other leading experts and foreign policy specialists.

    Signed:

    Your consideration of these concerns is greatly appreciated.

    Karl Altau
    Anne Applebaum
    AMB (ret.) Victor Ashe
    Anders Aslund
    Kirk Bennett
    Stephen Blank
    Ian Brzezinski
    Janusz Bugajski
    Michael Carpenter
    GEN (ret.) Wesley Clark
    Orest Deychakiwsky
    Peter B. Doran
    AMB (ret.) Norman Eisen
    Evelyn Farkas
    Jamie Fly
    AMB (ret.) Mark Gitenstein
    Agnia Grigas
    Michael Haltzel
    Rebeccah L. Heinrichs
    AMB (ret.) John Herbst
    LTG (ret.) Ben Hodges
    Glen Howard
    Toomas Hendrik Ilves
    Donald N. Jensen
    Phillip Karber
    Jonathan Katz
    James Kirchick
    HON David J. Kramer
    Nadia McConnell
    AMB (ret.) Stephen Mull
    Stephen Olejasz
    Andrei Piontkovski
    Herman Pirchner, Jr.
    Alina Polyakova

    https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/374e11_ce3031abb91b442eaeea227472803e4f.pdf
    ………………..

    CEPA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-partisan public policy research institution dedicated to promoting an economically vibrant, strategically secure, and politically free Europe with close and enduring ties to the United States. Since its creation in 2005, CEPA has grown rapidly to become a leading voice for strengthening security and democracy in the countries of post-communist Europe with offices in Washington and Warsaw. Through cutting-edge research, analysis, and programs CEPA provides fresh insight on energy, security, and defense to government officials and agencies, helps transatlantic businesses navigate changing strategic landscapes, and builds networks of future Atlanticist leaders.

    If you have any questions or if you have a media inquiry, please contact Christina Brown at christina.brown@cepa.org or +1 (202) 601-4148.

    ………………………..

    Edward Lucas – Tavistock Institute, plus, one of the cluster of journalists from the ‘Integrity Initiative NGO; – 95% funded by Nato, US State Department, plus, the UK Government. Same crowd who fund ‘The White Helmets’.

    ……………………..,,

    Integrity Initiative – Who is Who? Bill Browder – Seriously? Wonder if Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is linked into it?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f7ae82da37bda63238cb584da0c193f2e5f9b7272bb8c32e8aed058439c42ed9.png

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b3a2fb33adfc4b947c847a045c0053191b9c86ad32bf7a3c0d1a3c9e441d41b0.png

    …………………..

    Rothschild purchased Naftogaz, but, he needs Russian gas in the pipelines, to attract investors. Then once the Greater Israel Project, is up and running, with Israel to Europe gas, there will be no need for Russian gas in the newly refurbished Ukraine transit system. Of course, the investors, will be providing replacement pipelines, which is why they desperately need to prevent Nord Stream II.

    Why did the EU Neighbourhood Agreement demand Julia ‘Gas Princess’ Tymoshenko be freed from prison? After the EU ruined the Nabucco pipeline project, (The Nabucco-West pipeline was a proposed natural gas pipeline from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Austria)?

    …………………..

    Who was behind the Bolshevik Overthrow of the Russian Empire?
    Was it not the Tavistock Institute/Fabian Society Crowd?
    Who is behind CEPA? Still desperate to get their hands on Russian Resources and carve up the nation.
    How many of the signatures, to the letter to Trump, parents and grandparents were part of the Bolshevik and Nazi elite?
    How many of them were part of the ‘Operation Paperclip’ rescue programme?
    ………………………

    • FlorianGeyer

      It all comes down to the crushing US national debt of 21.4 trillion USD and rising and the only hope that the US has to preserve her world hegemony is to plunder Russia.

      Known Russian natural resources today are said to be valued at 75 trillion USD and the Zionists in the US/UK want it all for themselves.

      https://www.rt.com/business/447815-russia-natural-resources-sanctions/

      • AM Hants
        • FlorianGeyer

          All of them are the cast of the Zionist horror film , The New World Order.

          • AM Hants

            The way it is going, it is more a comedy thriller, with dark undertones.

          • FlorianGeyer

            Its a good job that you refrained from using the term Black Undertones AM.

            That would be a Period Drama :)

            The BBC are good at that.

          • AM Hants

            I never know which words to use these days, owing to having no idea what is acceptable and what is not. Especially when you see how the PC brigade keep changing their mind, depending on which minority is vocal at the time.

            Gay Pride, gets upset with Transgender Pride. Islamic Extremists get upset with Christians, but, that is acceptable, the Christians will obviously be in the wrong. It gets confusing when the Islamic Extremists have a problem with both Gay and Transgender Pride. Now who gets to be right, out of the three view points?

          • FlorianGeyer

            What we need is a Mothers Pride movement from all races, to smother all the Faux Pride imposters.

          • AM Hants

            Could we run under the ‘Mr Fred’ banner/mascot, or would that be un-PC?

            1992 Homepride Fred Which Recipe Advert… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2rIKdCZpOw

            Oooops, he was ‘Home Pride’, not ‘Mother’s Pride’. Dilemma sorted lol.

            Dusty Springfield in Mother’s Pride Bread TV Advert… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Pu8E-KCEik

          • FlorianGeyer

            We must be careful that we don’t ‘ appropriate ‘ other nations culture and language AM. That would be a sin in these enlightened times of avant garde thought and a bête noire of those who deplore a laissez-faire style of government. There is no acceptance of a ménage à trois between State,Oligarchic power and the common people in todays model of democracy.

            Its better that you immerse yourself in Cordon Bleu cooking AM.

            I do hope that this will be another annus horribilis for the Libtards.

            RSVP if you wish to.

            Hakuna Matata

            Florian.

          • AM Hants

            Do need some cookery lessons, so might go for the ‘Cordon Bleu Cooking’, rather then try to make sense of 21st century insanity.

          • FlorianGeyer

            I am confused as to why the term ‘Guys’ is an acceptable word to address a single or mixed gender group, when ‘Gals ‘ would likely get one arrested for a hate crime by the thought police dressed in para-military uniforms.

          • AM Hants

            Perhaps, those who carry just the X chromosome, would prefer to be known as ‘Dolls’, whilst those carrying X plus Y chromosomes, are happy to be known as ‘Guys’. Those who are confused, as to what chromosomes are in the mix, could be known as ‘Gulls’.

            “A Bushel and a Peck” from Guys and Dolls at The 5th Avenue Theatre… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W6A6O8zKyM

          • FlorianGeyer

            Very nice dolls AM but alas the type that are ‘Better to Borrow than to Own’ :)

    • Scaathor

      Hang them all.

  • NWOD

    So SouthFront’s 20th prediction of “UkroNazis” invading “Holy Donbass” was wrong again? Noooooooooooo!

    • Scaathor

      Ukronazis got cold feet…. as usual. Cowards and fools, all of them.

    • Nosferatu

      The thing is that some actions have to stay secret/suprise in order to be effective. If Donbass inteligence makes planed attack public, it effectivelly cancels it.

    • SonnenTanzer I agree