Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared martial law will come into effect in the four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia from tomorrow. On Wednesday, he held a gathering of his security council to discuss how to proceed with the invasion as Ukraine steps up its counter-offensive. The declaration of martial law in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia gives the Kremlin tighter control of the areas and the power to force civilians into the Russian Army.
Sergej Sumlenny, an expert in eastern European affairs and Ukraine war commentator, warned: “This is a Russian attempt to forcibly mobilise, kidnap and steal as many people as possible before Russians are kicked out.”
In a televised speech, Putin told the Russian Government to set up a new coordinating council under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to work with Russia’s regions.
The purpose of this council would be to boost Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine.
The document says there will be temporary resettlement of residents to safe areas, the introduction of a special regime for entry into and exit from the territory, as well as restriction of freedom of movement.
The martial law announcement comes hours after Russian-installed officials in Kherson told civilians to leave some areas as soon as possible in anticipation of an imminent Ukrainian attack.
The move comes after a series of significant and humiliating defeats for the Russian Federation as the Ukrainian forces carried out a blistering counter-offensive at the start of September, which included re-taking large swathes of annexed Kherson.
Putin said the measures he was ordering would increase the stability of the economy, industry and production in support of what Russia calls its “special military operation”.
He said: “We are working on solving very complex, large-scale tasks to ensure a reliable future for Russia, the future of our people.”
The decree states that the Kremlin has the “authority to implement measures to meet the needs of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
Financial Times Moscow Bureau chief Max Seddon noted: “This is portrayed as a technicality – he said [the decree] de facto already exists – but is a clear response to recent military setbacks as Ukraine’s counteroffensive advances.”
Last month, the four regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – held controversial referendums on whether to join Russia.
The result, which claimed overwhelming support for joining the Russian Federation, was internationally denounced as illegitimate
Reports quickly surfaced of residents alleging they had been intimidated or otherwise forced into voting, and that the outcome of the vote was preordained.