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Kyiv reacts to Putin announcing martial law in Ukraine’s occupied regions

Putin’s introduction of martial law in the Ukrainian territories Russia proclaimed the annexation of is in fact preparation for the mass deportation of Ukrainians, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov said.

putin's martial law in the annexed regions of 🇺🇦 is preparation for the mass deportation of the Ukrainian population to depressed areas of 🇷🇺 in order to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territory.

— Oleksiy Danilov (@OleksiyDanilov) October 19, 2022

He went on to add on Twitter that the deportation was “a crime that should be condemned by the UN and that was already committed by russia in Crimea and remained unpunished.”

A crime that should be condemned by the UN and that was already committed by russia in Crimea and remained unpunished.

— Oleksiy Danilov (@OleksiyDanilov) October 19, 2022

In order to paint a broader picture: in late September US Ambassador to the UNHCR Michele Taylor reported that Russia had deported between 900,000 and 1.6 mln people from Ukraine.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Kremlin rolled out martial law in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson Regions, which it had declared part of Russia’s territory on September 30. Putin’s decision to implement martial law entails, according to Russian portal Meduza’s journalist Kevin Rothrock, the introduction of a curfew therein, as well as restricting the rights of residence and travel. The decision also implies that military censorship would be applied along with forced labour and a ban on demonstrations.

The Russian leader also decreed that the journeys to and from the six Russian regions bordering on Ukraine would be limited, including attempting entry to the territories from the Crimea, which Russia has considered its territory since the illegal 2014 annexation referrendum.

⚡️Foreign Ministry: Martial law in occupied territories 'imposed' to suppress local resistance.

Russia's recent move aims to "suppress the resistance of the residents who oppose Russia's occupation" in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, the ministry said.

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) October 19, 2022

Ukraine calls on the international community to condemn Putin’s move

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said in a statement that the imposition of martial law “is another crime of the Russian leadership against the Ukrainian state and Ukrainians,” as reported by the Ukrinform news agency.

For the Ukrainian MFA, the move initiated a new stage of terror on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

“The announcement of the so-called ‘martial law’ by the Russian Federation aims to suppress the resistance of the residents of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, who oppose the Russian occupation. Even massive Russian propaganda is unable to disguise the failure of Russia’s efforts to annex Ukrainian territories,” the statement reads.

The ministry stated that Putin’s decree was null and void and had no legal consequences for Ukraine and its citizens, as well as for the international community. Instead, such a step is just another example of the crimes of the Russian leadership against the Ukrainian state and Ukrainians.

“Despite the agony of the regime in the Kremlin, Ukraine will continue liberating occupied territories and rescuing its people,” the statement reads.

The MFA went on to call on international partners to strongly condemn the intention of the Russian occupation administrations to deprive, under the guise of the so-called “martial law”, residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, of even basic human rights. The ministry also called for condemnation of Russia’s illegal plans to legalise looting, forced deportations and mobilisation.

“We also appeal to provide Ukraine with modern anti-missile and anti-air defence systems as soon as possible to protect our civilian population from Russia’s barbaric missile and kamikaze drone attacks,” the statement reads.

Experts analyse Putin’s latest move

Piotr Żochowski and Andrzej Wilk of the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) – a Warsaw-based think tank – commented on the Russian dictator’s latest stratagem noting that “the introduction of martial law in the territories occupied by Russia, Crimea excluded, is a result of previous decisions on their annexation.”

They went on to demonstrate Putin’s line of thought, saying that “a part of the formally ‘Russian’ territories is under Ukrainian control and is affected by military hostilities, which Putin sees as direct aggression on Russia.”

“This implies that future Russian military action would focus on breaching the southern and eastern positions of the Ukrainian forces. It should not be ruled out, however, that Russia could try its luck also on other sections of the frontline,” the OSW analysis reads.

According to Mr Żochowski and Mr Wilk, Russians are deploying additional forces in the Luhansk and Kherson regions. In Kherson alone, the number of Russian soldiers is estimated at 20,000-25,000 whose morale, nevertheless, is low and their will of fight lacking.

The analysts noted that Ukrainians may encounter significant issues should a decision to retake Kherson be made. This is why Kyiv does not rule out directing the main push of the counteroffensive towards the Zaporizhzhia region.

“While retaking Kherson would demonstrate a significant political magnitude, it would not bring Ukraine any gains of strategic nature. Meanwhile, recapturing Melitopol would lock Crimea off from a land connection with Russia again,” the experts said, adding that with the Kerch bridge damaged, keeping Crimea detached would make it easier for the Ukrainian Army to continue their efforts aimed at retaking the peninsula. This would also “limit the efficiency of the Russian occupation to the territory of Donbas.”

The analysts also recalled that on Tuesday the Commander of the Joint Army Group of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation General Sergei Surovikin in the zone of the “special military operation” had said in an interview that the situation on the frontline was “tense.”

The OSW experts said that “the public appearance of Surovikin may signify that the information policy of the Russian defence ministry hitherto based on scant daily frontline communique has undergone a revision… Admitting that the frontline has seen big difficulties in fending off Ukrainian attacks could suggest, in a veiled way, the possibility that Kherson could be abandoned. Meanwhile, stressing the importance of airborne action could be a teaser of intensified air raids in the territory of Ukraine.”

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