Putin declares martial law in annexed Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin declared martial law on Wednesday in four regions of Ukraine annexed by Moscow and granted emergency powers to governors of all regions of Russia, opening the door for new nationwide restrictions .

Putin did not immediately say what measures would be taken under martial law, but said his order would take effect from Thursday. His decree gave law enforcement agencies three days to submit specific proposals and ordered the establishment of territorial defense forces in annexed areas.

The upper house of Russia’s parliament quickly approved Putin’s decision to impose martial law in the annexed Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporozhye regions. The approved legislation suggests the declaration could involve restrictions on travel and public gatherings, greater scrutiny and broader powers for law enforcement agencies.

“We are trying to solve very difficult and large-scale tasks to ensure the safety and security of Russia and protect our people,” Putin said in a televised address at the start of the Security Council meeting. “Those who are training on the front lines or at shooting ranges and training centres should feel our support and know that behind them we have our great country and united people.”

On Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said two men opened fire on soldiers at a military shooting range near Ukraine, killing 11 and wounding 15. The ministry said two men from an unnamed former Soviet republic opened fire on volunteer soldiers during targeted practice before being returned fire.

Putin did not provide details on the additional powers Russia’s regional leaders would have under his decree. However, the order noted that the measures envisaged by martial law could be implemented anywhere in Russia “if necessary”.

Under Russian legislation, martial law could require restrictions such as bans on public gatherings, travel bans and curfews, and censorship.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin’s order did not foresee closing Russia’s borders, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported. To reassure a nervous public, local authorities hastily announced no immediate plans to impose curfews or restrict travel.

Putin ordered the mobilization of reservists last month, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to flee Russia.

Russian leaders also ordered the creation of a coordination committee on Wednesday to increase interaction between government agencies in response to the fighting in Ukraine, which Putin went on to call a “special military operation.”

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who was appointed to head the commission, said the commission would focus on increasing the supply of weapons and military equipment, carrying out construction work and facilitating transportation.

Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of the defense committee of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said that in the region bordering Russia with Ukraine, authorities planned to increase the security of key facilities and conduct measures such as checks on motorists.

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