Speculations around introduction of the martial law have revealed all the self-indulgence, demagogy and lies and are mirroring rhetoric of the Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Let’s recall that Verkhovna Rada, according to a motion by president Poroshenko, introduced the martial law in ten Ukrainian oblasts bordering Russia for thirty days. This happened after the incident near the Kerch bridge where the Russian ships under the Russian flag, for the first time since 2014 acting openly, rammed the Ukrainian vessels and captured three Ukrainian ships and more than twenty Ukrainian sailors. Several sailors were wounded with gunfire. This all happened near the Kerch bridge in the international waters and was a clear violation of international law. International community almost unanimously condemned the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
Reacting to the incident, the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine proposed introducing the martial law for sixty-day period. President Poroshenko backed this proposal and submitted his decree to the parliament for consideration arguing that Ukraine was under the threat of land invasion. Poroshenko described threats Ukraine faced and ways to address them.
Meanwhile, leaders of the parliamentary factions were talking about elections. They were concerned that the martial law for sixty-day period could lead to cancellation of the presidential elections. This discussion happened during the reconciliation meeting of the parliamentary factions.
During the parliamentary session, they instead voiced concerns that the martial law might limit rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Yuliya Tymoshenko told outright lies during her speech in the parliament, which could be easily verified. Particularly, she said that her faction had been supporting introduction of the martial law from the very beginning. “Dear colleagues, we are in a state of war,” Tymoshenko stated. “We were attacked aggressively. The Russian Federation, aggressor, attacked us again. We must react. However, I should stress that the “Batkivchshyna” faction have been demanding introduction of the martial law since the first day Russia launched war against us. (Noise in the hall) And today we support the martial law. But at the same time we must decide how we should protect our country.”
Meanwhile, during the NSDC meeting on February 28, 2014, which happened during the Crimea annexation, she said the exact opposite and warned against use of force.
“Not a single tank should leave the barracks; not a single soldier should raise his weapons. Otherwise, we will be defeated,” she said, according to the minutes of the meeting.
Less than a week after the meeting of the parliament, Yuliya Tymoshenko claimed that the “critical majority of experts and journalists around the world” suspect “artificial” nature of the martial law. Meanwhile, on the same day, as a complete refutation to Tymoshenko’s words, NATO decided to increase its military presence in the Black Sea to control movements of the Russian ships. This was announced by Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, during the press conference. He stressed that the Alliance will continue monitoring the situation in the Azov region closely and urged Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and their vessels.
These two statements contradict each other. Either Tymoshenko plays down the present threat and speculates for political gains or NATO does not understand well the relations between Russia and Ukraine. Considering Tymoshenko’s appeal to lock the Ukrainian tanks in barracks, we should assume that she indeed plays down the threat and wants to undermine the martial law. Who could profit from this? This is a rhetorical question.
Oleksandr Shevchenko, MP and director of the Bukovel ski resort owned by Ihor Kolomoyskyi, said that the Azov incident was instigated by Petro Poroshenko. Shevchenko also declared his willingness to participate in the presidential elections while his partner Kolomoyskyi told that he would support anyone except Poroshenko.
“Knowing about inadequate and aggressive behavior of Russia and risking the lives of the Ukrainian sailors, Poroshenko made his long-planned provocation and escalated the military conflict before the elections!” Shevchenko wrote on his Facebook. “Instead of fighting for the lives of every Ukrainian soldier, instead of preventing deaths and conflicts on the frontline, instead of making Ukraine more financially, economically and politically strong and independent by his every action and deed and instead of cultivating mutual trust and respect among Ukrainians, our president chose the other path!”
Shevchenko’s statement mirrored that of the Russian president Vladimir Putin: “Undoubtedly, this is a provocation organized by the current government and most likely by the incumbent president on the eve of the presidential elections in Ukraine that will take place in March 2019.”
To understand why the Ukrainian MP and partner of Kolomoyskyi repeats the statements of the leader of the aggressor country, we should recall the recent interview with Kolomoyskyi. Kolomoyskyi claimed that Putin was not engaged in the Donbas conflict and that Ukrainians were fighting each other. “All this talks about Putin commanding the militants in Donbas make me laugh”, the oligarch stated. “I know the situation from the inside and Putin has nothing to do with it. He doesn’t need this burden and wants to integrate Donbas back into Ukraine to ruin it from within. The Donbas conflict doesn’t bring him any joy, only pain.”
In other words, the oligarch backed Putin’s statements that there is civil war going on in Ukraine and that Russia has nothing to do with. Kolomoyskyi radically changed his opinion about Putin whom he called a schizophrenic in 2014. Now he plays into Putin’s hands, probably expecting to prevent Poroshenko, whom he loathes, from winning the second term and then to make a deal with the Russian president.
Meanwhile, the former US ambassador to Ukraine John E. Herbst made a poignant assessment of such rhetoric: “The natural inclination of Ukraine’s political class to focus on the alleged or real political motivations behind national security measures can divert at least for a time the attention of Western media and statesmen from the core issue: the strategic danger posed by Moscow’s latest outrage.”