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Ukrainian president proposes martial law after new tensions with Russia

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko early Monday proposed parliament impose martial law in the country, while saying “Ukraine does not plan to fight anyone” over tensions with Russia in the Sea of Azov.

At an emergency meeting of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), Poroshenko said that the introduction of the 60-day martial law does not mean that Ukraine will carry out any offensive actions.

“The introduction of the martial law does not mean a declaration of war, Ukraine does not plan to fight anyone. It is introduced exclusively for defense,” Poroshenko said.

Yakiv Smoliy, head of Ukraine’s central bank, who also attended the NSDC meeting, said that the possible introduction of the martial law would not affect Ukraine’s banking system.

Petro Tsygykal, head of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) of Ukraine said the SBGS would tighten up border control after the introduction of martial law.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian Navy said that Russian forces opened fire on Ukrainian vessels near the Kerch Strait, which separates the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, damaging two vessels and forcefully stopping another one.

Six Ukrainian military sailors were wounded in the attack and two of them were in serious condition, the Ukrainian Navy said.

The Russian Federal Security Service said that three Ukrainian ships, namely Berdyansk, Nikopol and Yany Kapu, breached the Russian border, and conducted dangerous maneuvers in spite of Russia’s orders.

The Ukrainian Navy said it had informed Russia in advance about the passage of Ukrainian vessels from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait.

Ukraine said Russia’s actions were an “act of aggression” which “violated freedom of navigation by unlawfully using force.”

Earlier this year, Ukraine accused Russia of “aggressive actions” in the Sea of Azov after Russia inaugurated a bridge over the Kerch Strait and started inspecting commercial ships sailing through the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Moscow rejects such accusations, saying that Crimea is part of Russia, which can exercise its sovereign rights in nearby waters, and the Kerch Strait is not an international passage.

Crimea was incorporated into Russia in March 2014 following a local referendum, but Kiev and Western countries rejected the results.

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