The leaders of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in eastern Ukraine declared martial law on Monday, the separatist-linked DNR News agency reported. The decree, issued by the Republic's president Igor Plotnitsky, comes into force on Tuesday.
According to the legislation's text published on the DRN News website, it aims to face "the aggression against the Republic, or the direct threat of such aggression." During martial law, "to the extent which is necessary for the national defense and security of the state, the rights and freedoms of citizens will be restricted, as well as the activities of enterprises, institutions, organizations, and the rights of their officials, who may also be assigned additional duties," the text reads.
The legislation, which appears to be the separatist authorities' reaction to the expected escalation of hostilities in the area, introduces 19 provisions aimed at strengthening the security regime in the territory controlled by the rebels. According to the new legal framework, striking and the freedom of assembly are severely restricted, as well as the right to travel outside the separatist-controlled territory. In addition to restrictions on the freedom of entry to the LPR, the decree also orders the suspension of all activities by political parties and other public and religious associations, including international organizations, "which may undermine the conditions of martial law and the security of LPR." The decree stipulates that curfew may also be imposed, as well as the internment of citizens of a foreign state with which LPR is at war, "in accordance with the generally recognized principles and norms of international law". In addition, the introduction of military censorship of mail, internet communications and the monitoring of telephone calls is imposed.
The Luhansk People's Republic was officially announced on April 24, 2014 and independence was declared May 12 in the aftermath of the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, which sparked pro-Russian protests in the east of the country and the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. A bloody conflict ensued, dubbed by Westerners and Ukrainians as a "stealth invasion" of Ukraine by Russia, the latter which officially denies any involvement in the hostilities.
According to the estimates of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1.17 million people have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict, and 6,116 people have been killed. Additionally, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, which claimed 298 victims, has been attributed to a Russian-made missile fired from a separatist-controlled territory near Donetsk.
Since a ceasefire was signed between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists in Minsk, Belarus, in February of this year, the violence in the region has declined, but artillery attacks on Ukrainian serviceman continue, claming new victims. According to NATO's top commander, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who was quoted by Reuters, said Russia's military may be taking advantage of a recent decline in violence in the region to prepare for a new military offensive. According to the general, Russia has concentrated its largest military force on the Ukrainian border and has deployed additional air defense systems, seeking to tighten its grip over eastern Ukraine.
The Luhansk People's Republic, together with the Donetsk People's Republic and the Republic of Crimea, constitutes what the Ukrainian government calls the "temporarily occupied territories." The confederation, known internatonally as Novorossiya, is only officially recognized by South Ossetia and has been classified by Ukraine as a terrorist organization. Although a part of the Luhansk Oblast has remained under the control of the Ukrainian military, over 60 percent of the area's one-million citizens currently live under separatist rule, according to the estimates of the Ukrainian government.