The ongoing clash between Ukraine and Russia took a fateful turn on Friday when the Ukrainian government banned Russian men from entering their country.
Except for some “humanitarian cases,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko banned all Russian men ages 16 to 60, BBC reports. The martial law order is set to expire on December 26.
The order comes amid international leaders coming together for the G-20 summit in Argentina. The Ukraine-Russia situation will undoubtedly be a major point of discussion.
Ukraine will not allow Russian men aged 16-60 into the country following the imposition of martial law, Kiev says.
The move came amid fears of a Russian invasion after Russian forces seized three Ukrainian vessels and 24 sailors in the Black Sea last Sunday.
Ukraine said the incident was a flagrant violation of international law, while Russia says the vessels violated its territorial waters.
It is the most dangerous clash at sea off Crimea since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in March 2014.
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And, on the order specifically:
The president tweeted (in Ukrainian) that the ban was designed to prevent the formation of “private armies” in Ukraine.
He was referring to Russian-backed separatists who formed units in April 2014 to fight Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.
Mr Poroshenko also said registration criteria would be tightened for Russian citizens in the regions under martial law.
The tweet, translated into English, reads: “Ukraine has imposed a restriction on the entry of citizens of the Russian Federation aged 16 to 60, so that the Russian Federation has not formed the detachments of ‘private’ armies in Ukraine, which are actually representatives of the Russian armed forces. In order not to give the Russians to carry out the operations they had planned back in 2014.”
The relationship between Ukraine and Russia has been tense for a number of years since Russia initially invaded in 2014. Years later, the hostilities grew and President Poroshenko recently threatened a “full-scale war,” BBC reports.
TIME reports that over the course of this year, the embroiled situation has escalated with Russia effectively seizing control of the Kerch Strait “by building a bridge across it too low for large vessels to clear underneath.”
And, “Since then, Russia has detained scores of Ukrainian and foreign merchant ships, choking off eastern Ukrainian ports.”
NBC News reports the imposition of martial law allows the Ukrainian president far greater latitude to impose restrictions, which includes barring foreign travels:
Martial law allows the president to impose restrictions, including limits on the movement of foreigners.
It also means Poroshenko can ban peaceful public protests and regulate the media. No elections can be held when it martial law is in place, but Poroshenko insists Ukrainians will be be able to vote as planned in March.
Jack Watling, a research fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute think tank, said Poroshenko’s fears were well-founded. He said Russia has stationed units on Ukrainian’s eastern border that specialize in deep reconnaissance and penetration.
It’s not so much about “curbing the threat” as it is to show the Ukrainian public that the president is doing something about the escalation, he added.
The seizure of Ukrainian ships on Sunday was the latest rift between the neighbors. Tensions were already high after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the ongoing armed conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.