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TematicheRussia e Spazio Post-sovieticoThe “coming into effect” of Russia’s martial law in...

The “coming into effect” of Russia’s martial law in Ukraine


On October 19th 2022 Russia’s President Putin signed a new decree imposing martial law in the four regions Moscow annexed from Ukraine. The reason for this, most likely, derives from the major military defeats Russia suffered during the last month. The martial law came into effect on October 20th, right after the clock struck midnight. 

One week ago – October 10th 2022

On October 10th, the UN General Assembly held its 11th Emergency Special Session with the purpose of calling on countries not to recognize the four regions of Ukraine which Russia has claimed, following the “sham” referenda held last month, and strictly requesting that Moscow would revise these illegal annexations. The resolution adopted on October 12th by the UN, “Defending the Principles”, clarifies that the regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia are momentarily occupied by Russia as a result of aggression, violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence. The UN General Assembly President, Csaba Kőrösi, reminded what is the main purpose of the International Organization: to maintain International Peace and Security. The most important principle of the UN Charter presents itself in Paragraph four Article two: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Russia violated that principle in every way, for this reason the four annexations of the Russian Federation are considered illegal and will not be recognized by the countries who voted in favor of the resolution. Five voted against the resolution, while 35 abstained. 

Martial law and its meaning 

The imposition of martial law allows the establishment and the expansion of the powers held by the military and law enforcement; it permits to strengthen the role of the military in delimited areas, through restriction of freedom of movement, forced curfews and supervised communications. In essence it is the suspension of the normal governance of the rule of law. 

During a meeting of Russia’s security council Wednesday (October 19th), the President of the Federal Republic of Russia considered the implementation of martial law as necessary. Directly stating his word, he did it to guarantee the “safety of people, the protection and anti-terrorist security of critical facilities and the maintenance of public order.” Throughout the Security Council’s meeting Putin communicated how the four previous mentioned regions have been under martial law before Russia actually annexed them: the formal declaration of the establishment of the martial law had to be done in order to “legalize this state in accordance with Russian legislation”. 

Essentially, he is saying that it was implicit since those people and territories have been military occupied for months by now and have been living under restrictions for a while already. 

As the Kremlin’s official website divulges, the decree was signed to intensify and strengthen the efficiency of activities of the executive government bodies, in the Russian Federation and in the just annexed regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, the nucleus of the conflict. 

To be more specific, he instituted three levels of martial law responsiveness, which go from basic response level on the territories which are actual entities of the Russian Federation, to maximum response level in the annexed territories where top officials will have to implement measures to converge with the needs of the Russian Federation Armed Forces and in general of the population.

In addition to that The Government of the Russian Federation in harmony with the main institutions of the country will have to submit, within three days, proposals on the measures that will have to applied in the regions where martial law has been introduced. 

The imposition of the Martial Law and its broad impact

Obvious as it is through the news, Putin is bringing forward all the tools he can and has in order to win this war. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, during a Press Conference of the United Nations held on September 22nd , stated that Putin is threatening to use all weapons and resources at “our (Russia) disposal”. Through the imposition of the martial law Putin is demonstrating, once again, his negative response to observe in an attentive way the International rules and principles, such as the territorial integrity of an independent State as Ukraine. As Josep Borrell stated during the Press Conference, the territories that have been annexed illegally will be still recognized as an integral part of Ukraine.

I would like to conclude elucidating the main purpose of the decree, as the Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security And Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, twitted: “Putin’s martial law in the annexed region is preparation for the mass deportation of the Ukrainian population to depressed areas of [Russia] in order to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territory”. Citizens are being asked to leave Ukraine and to relocate in Russia, in other words, the decree contemplates forced relocations of Ukraine’s civilians, moreover their refusal could add more inhumanity and brutality to the deportations. 

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