KYIV, Ukraine – President Vladimir V.Putin declared martial law in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine on Wednesday, but in a sign that his real concerns may lie far from his homeland. Rather, he also moved to put the economy in a wartime position. and imposed restrictions in more than two dozen regions across Russia.
With battlefield casualties mounting in Ukraine and the Russian public seething at the army’s unpopular order to enlist, Putin’s actions seem less a show of force than a sign of turmoil. mix.
In reality, Moscow has only meager control over regions of eastern Ukraine, where it imposed martial law, weeks after illegally annexing them. As of the end of last month, the Russian Army controlled most of Luhansk and Kherson, but only about half of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk. And on Wednesday, Russian officials ordered the evacuation of thousands of people in Kherson and said they might move puppet government offices there across the Dnipro River to a safer location.
In imposing the new restrictions, Putin spoke of the bound areas as if they were indisputable Russian territory.
“I signed a decree on the application of martial law in these four constituent entities of the Russian Federation,” Putin told a Security Council meeting. “In addition, in the current situation, I think it is necessary to give more powers to the leaders of all regions of Russia.”
Some of the changes were aimed at reorienting the Russian economy towards war. In border regions as well as in Crimea, for example, local authorities can now “mobilize the economy to meet the needs of the army,” the order said. But the Kremlin also paved the way for still tighter population controls.
Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political analyst, said in a phone interview: “Putin has to prepare the country for much more difficult times and he needs to mobilize resources.
In Ukraine, martial law will allow The government imposed curfews, seized property, forcibly resettled residents, jailed undocumented immigrants, set up checkpoints, and detained people for up to 30 days.
In Russia, the restrictions are no longer martial law, and as with many Russian laws, their provisions are open to broad interpretation.
For example, the new law allows for the suspension of activities of political parties, public organizations and religious groups, but also any activity deemed to be undermining the defense and security of the Union. Russia. It also allows governors to set entry and exit restrictions in their areas.
“Overall, all of this does not look like a struggle with an external enemy, more like an attempt to stop the revolution that is ripening at home,” said Abbas Gallyamov, a former spokesman for the Palace. The Kremlin now lives in Israel, wrote in a post. on the Telegram messaging app.
Mr. Putin said that the Kremlin had no choice but to suppress.
He claimed that the Ukrainian government was “trying to create an underground gang of bandits, sending sabotage groups into our territory”. He cited the recent truck bombing at a key bridge linking Russia with the Crimean Peninsula, Ukrainian territory that Russia seized in 2014.
However, some analysts see these orders as less about defending Russian territory than creating a path for the difficult days to come.
Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, said many changes are likely. “I suspect that more extraordinary economic measures will be the next thing to be announced,” she said on Twitter. “The state needs more resources for the military.”
Several regional officials – including the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin – appear to be trying to offer reassurance. “Currently, no measures have been put in place to limit the city’s normal pace of life,” Sobyanin wrote on his Telegram channel.
And despite the new powers given to them by Mr. Putin, the regional governors of Kursk, Krasnodar and Voronezh said no immigration restrictions would be imposed.
Still, many Russians will no doubt see the warning message in martial law imposed in Ukraine, the first time Moscow has declared martial law since World War II, analysts said.
“People are worried that they will close the border soon, and siloviki“- Strong men close to Putin in the Kremlin – “will do what they want,” Stanovaya said.
On Tuesday, the newly appointed commander of the Russian invasion, General Sergei Surovikin, acknowledged that the position of his troops in Kherson “has been quite difficult” and seems to suggest that a tactical retreat may be necessary. General Surovikin said he was prepared to make “difficult decisions” about troop deployment, but did not elaborate on what might happen.
In a signal that the faltering invasion of Ukraine has eroded Moscow’s influence elsewhere, Russia recently redeployment of troops and vital assets from Syria, according to three senior officials based in the Middle East.
Russia, the dominant military force in Syria since 2015 and helping to maintain the government’s grip on power, retains a significant presence there. But this shift could herald a shift in the balance of power in one of the world’s most complicated conflict zones, and could prompt Israel, Syria’s enemy, to rethink its stance on Syria. Ukraine conflict.
Vladimir Saldo, the head of the Russian-installed Kherson region, told Russian state television that he estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people would be evacuated over the next six days. Videos published in Russian media show rows of ordinary people boarding a ferry at a river port to evacuate to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.
Russia’s ability to hold onto the West Bank could be particularly sensitive in Moscow. Last month, U.S. officials briefed highly sensitive intelligence says Putin has pushed himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine, including refusing requests from commanders on the ground that they be allowed to withdraw troops across the Dnipro River.
Ukrainian officials dismiss Russia’s claims as a ruse and a “propaganda” and say their real audience could be returning home, where the Kremlin is trying to support the war. .
The Russian military has distributed leaflets in the city of Kherson encouraging people to flee via Dnipro, according to photos posted on social media. One shows parents with a young son, all smiling, with a Russian flag in the background. “Save your family, move to the east coast,” the text read.
Another leaflet said evacuation routes had been opened to the occupied Crimean Peninsula and two provinces in southern Russia, Krasnodar and Stavropol, and asked Ukrainians to “bring your children and loved ones with you.” Go!”
Nataliya Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the Southern Military Command of Ukraine, said that under the guise of evacuating civilians from danger, the Russian government in fact continues to carry out deportation of Ukrainian adults and children. from the occupied territory to Russia. Human rights groups claim that Russia is forcing Ukrainian children to be deported.
Although Russia claims that it is moving civilians to keep them safe from the Ukrainian counterattack, Ukrainian forces have been slowed down by the Russian military after weeks of gaining the advantage, with skirmishes. Fierce took place in the Kherson area.
The Ukrainian army suffered casualties from well-organized Russian forces as they advanced mile by mile across open fields with little cover. When the Ukrainian army began to capture a road junction near the village of Duchany during the attack, for example, two paratroopers in a company of the 98th Infantry Brigade were killed and more than a dozen others wounded, the soldiers said in an interview.
Lieutenant Dmytro Kovtalyuk said that the Ukrainian company has deployed half a dozen armored personnel carriers with infantry on top, because this unit has too few vehicles to fit all soldiers in the armored service, a Ukrainian soldier said.
The Russians surrounded the trees about a thousand yards from the road on either side and opened fire with anti-tank missiles, while a Russian attack helicopter shot overhead, firing machine guns at the poles.
By the time the company reached the fork, the Russians had retreated, leaving the trenches and trenches empty. The Ukrainians threw grenades – “just to test”, said Lieutenant Kovtalyuk – then climbed onto Russian positions and used them to defend against the tank counterattack that followed hours later.
Ukrainian commanders are moving forward in what they call wave tactics. After one unit captures new positions, such as the Russian trench at a fork in the road, another unit, the second wave, moves through it in another attempt to advance.
Pvt said: “We considered them running away, but they didn’t. Andriy Bezpalko, one of the soldiers fighting in the battle for the fork. “They fired back.”
Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kyiv, Ukraine and Neil MacFarquhar from Paris. Report contributed by Oleg Matsnev from Berlin, Valeriya Safronova from Vienna, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, Eric Nagourney from New York and Maria Varenikova from Kyiv.