Martial law in Russia: What is it and how does it impact the war in Ukraine?

Martial law in Russia: What is it and how does it impact the war in Ukraine?
What would martial law mean for Russia?

Russia’s parliament is reportedly convening for an extraordinary session on Friday in which it is expected to impose martial law, seemingly in order to clamp down on domestic protests and rallies opposing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

But what exactly does that mean for Russian citizens?

Martial law is defined as the temporary imposition of military rule over a state or region in times of national crisis when civil authority has broken down or when wartime operations are underway.

The ordinary rule of law is postponed and the administration of government functions is overseen by the armed forces, ostensibly in the best interests of the public.

But the principle has also been deployed by authoritarian regimes around the world as a means of suppressing popular dissent.

China declared martial law to curtail the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989, for instance.

It is often instigated as a means of re-establishing national security in the wake of uprisings or coups d’etat, as seen in Thailand in 2006 and 2014 and in Egypt in 2013.

Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Wednesday the measure would amount to “a total ban on all rallies, disconnection from the outside world, large-scale food and financial restrictions” in Mr Putin’s Russia.

The decision is expected to grant Russia’s military the authority to impose greater censorship in order to silence dissent and opposition to the war and amount to dominating the media, shutting down internet forums, social media and communication apps, jailing protesters and limiting travel.

An estimated 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested so far for taking part in street demonstrations against the war and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called on the public to continue to rally in town squares across the country.

Russia has meanwhile been hammered by punitive Western sanctions in the wake of Mr Putin launching his “special military operation” a week ago, with the value of the ruble falling through the floor and the country’s central bank forced to raise its interest rate from 9.5 per cent to 20 per cent and introduce capital controls to safeguard the economy as citizens queue at ATMs to withdraw cash in case of future shortages.

Apple Pay no longer works in Russia and companies across the world have moved to sever their ties with its businesses while the country’s sports stars and cultural figures are banned from taking part in international competitions.

Mr Zelensky also declared martial law in Ukraine on 24 February when Russia first launched its assault on his country.

<p>This map shows the areas held by Russian forces in Ukraine</p>

This map shows the areas held by Russian forces in Ukraine

“Don’t panic,” the television personality turned admired resistance leader told citizens. “We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine.”

Ukraine previously declared martial law in November 2018 under Mr Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, in the aftermath of a naval clash off the Crimean Peninsula when the Russian coastguard captured three Ukrainian ships and their 23 crew members on the Sea of Azov.

Russia accused the two Ukrainian artillery boats and a tug of crossing into its waters along the Kerch Strait without permission, despite the two nations having signed a 2003 maritime treaty agreeing the passage to the Black Sea was shared territory, a sign of heightened aggression post-2014 that now looks like a prelude to the current conflict.

<p>The places Ukrainian refugees are seeking shelter</p>

The places Ukrainian refugees are seeking shelter

It was the first time Ukraine had made the declaration since 1945 and took in 10 strategic border regions: five neighbouring Russia, two near Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region where Russia maintains a military presence and three along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

Mr Poroshenko was accused at the time by fellow MPs of using the order to roll-back rights hard-won during the Maidan revolution and shoring up support ahead of a then-imminent presidential election, even likened by one minister to Margaret Thatcher strengthening her grip on power through the Falklands War in 1982.

The US and Germany were among the nations criticising Russia for its aggression.

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