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Martial Law for Annexed Regions of Ukraine

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovoresidence outside Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 19, 2022. | Image by Sergei Ilyin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo, AP

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Russian President Vladimir Putin declared martial law in four regions of Ukraine that Moscow has annexed, as well as granted emergency powers to all regional governors in Russia, paving the way for sweeping new restrictions across the country.

The decree from the Kremlin enacts martial law in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson on October 20 at midnight.

Putin did not immediately specify the steps that would be taken under martial law, according to ABC News.

However, his decree ordered that territorial defense forces be established in the annexed regions and gave Russian law enforcement agencies three days to submit proposals regarding the measures to be taken.

Putin’s decision to declare martial law comes a few weeks after referendums held in parts of occupied Ukraine saw the majority of voters choose to join Russia — referendums deemed illegitimate by Ukraine and its allies shortly thereafter.

The U.S. declared on Thursday that Putin’s enforcement of martial law in annexed Ukrainian territories demonstrated that his claim that people wanted to join Russia was a “lie,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

“President Putin annexed these regions claiming that there were individuals in these regions who so desperately sought refuge from the Ukrainian state that they wanted to join Mother Russia,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, explained to the press. “Now Putin is, I think, proving the lie by declaring martial law.”

The martial law order contradicts the Kremlin’s claims that life in the annexed regions has returned to normal, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Reportedly, a military administration has taken over civilian leadership in the southern city of Kherson, and a mass evacuation is underway as a Ukrainian counteroffensive continues.

According to the AP, in declaring martial law, Putin has resorted to extreme measures to tighten his control over the Russians and the Ukrainians in the wake of losses on the battlefield, sabotage, and problems with mobilizing his troops.

As outlined in Russian legislation, Putin’s declaration of martial law in Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia may involve a ban on public gatherings, the introduction of travel bans and curfews, broader law enforcement powers, and tightened censorship, among other restrictions.

By opening the floodgates, Putin also made it possible for restrictive measures to be implemented all over Russia.

AP suggested that this may result in a more severe crackdown on dissent than the recent dispersal of antiwar protests and the jailing of people who make statements or provide information about the fighting that contradicts the official line.

However, according to the AP, the severity of new restrictions inside Russia will likely depend on proximity to Ukraine since Putin has put western regions, including Crimea, Krasnodar, Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, and Rostov, on medium alert.       

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