Experts warn a form of martial law has also been imposed across Russia.
By Patrick Reevell
President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of martial law on Wednesday officially imposed it only in four occupied regions of Ukraine. But many experts said in reality Putin appeared to have laid the groundwork to apply a form of martial law across the whole of Russia, just under another name.
In his public address, Putin portrayed the martial law declaration as a technicality, limited to the Ukrainian regions he illegally annexed last month. But a second decree, published at the same time, also placed all of Russia’s other regions into various levels of increased “readiness.”
Under those readiness levels, powers were granted to local authorities that closely resemble some of those under martial law. It was still unclear how the powers will be applied in practice, but some experts said it meant Putin had imposed a form of martial law across all Russia.
“It creates legal basis to impose martial law across the country or parts of the country without actually declaring it,” Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace, told ABC News.
The most severe form outside the Ukrainian regions is in eight Russian regions neighboring Ukraine, where local administrations are granted powers to impose curfews, restrict movement, take over factories and transport, potentially apply censorship as well as order the temporary resettlement of people.
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The regions are under a “form of martial law lite,” Mark Galeotti, a veteran Russia analyst, wrote in the Spectator Magazine. “Vladimir Putin has just moved Russia one step closer to totalitarianism.”
Moscow and other central and southern regions of Russia have slightly fewer powers than the rest of the nation.
The decrees theoretically give governors nearly unlimited authority by empowering them to take any actions aimed at assisting Russia’s war effort.
“The government has been given the authority to make any decisions that they deem necessary. wherever, whatever the case may be, “In a recent interview, Gleb Pavlovsky, a current political analyst and former political adviser to Putin, said.
For the time being, many areas have worked to reassure residents that the measures won’t have an impact on daily life. And the majority of experts said it was still unclear how they would be used in practice.
However, it appeared that Putin was making the move in an effort to save his invasion of Ukraine after initially disguising it as a small “Special Military Operation.”
The decrees’ primary goal, experts said, was to allow Russian authorities to mobilize resources needed to support the mass troop mobilization.
“I was waiting for this announcement. Their system can’t mobilize this many people without mobilizing state resources too. The state needs more resources directed to the military,” Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at RAND Corporation, wrote on Twitter.
The move also appeared to re-direct Russia’s economy toward supporting the war effort. It suggested the Kremlin is trying to ready Russia for a long war while also bracing for possible shocks to the political system coming from the battlefield, such as the likely loss of Kherson, Gabuev said.
“It looks like the Kremlin sees serious sources of worry,” he said. “Here the government really wants to be prepared.”
He added, “It’s significant and it shows the change in the estimate of how the war is going and what kind of mobilization internally first and foremost will be needed to kind of toughen it out and then ultimately win this war by the Kremlin’s definition.”
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