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Ukraine expands martial law in a bid to boost defences near occupied areas

A Bohdana cannon fires in Lviv in Ukraine, Saturday, April 27, 2024.
A Bohdana cannon fires in Lviv in Ukraine, Saturday, April 27, 2024. Copyright Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
Copyright Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
By Euronews
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Kyiv notified the Council of Europe of changes to its martial law, in effect since February 2022.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree confirming the parliament's decision to expand the country's martial law as Kyiv prepares for a renewed push by Moscow's forces in the east and south.

The decree, issued on 23 April, includes the creation of military districts in frontline regions, some of which include occupied areas, where the state now has the power to temporarily seize property for military purposes.

Regions targeted by the Russian army since Moscow's full-scale invasion in February 2022, such as Zaporizhzhia, have been largely devastated, with most properties destroyed or abandoned in more than two years of heavy fighting.

Under martial law, in effect since 24 February 2022, the military leadership of Ukraine has the right to restrict the freedom of movement of citizens as well as confiscate private or communal property for state needs. 

Earlier in April, Ukraine notified the Council of Europe of the partial suspension of some clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms in connection to recent changes in its martial law. 

According to the application, Ukraine will stop observing such provisions of the convention as inviolability of housing, confidentiality of correspondences, non-interference in personal and family life, freedom of movement and free choice of residence, and to use and dispose of one's property.

While these changes are in line with typical applications of martial law, Ukraine is currently going through reforms in line with its EU membership application and is required to highlight policies that could run counter to human rights guarantees.

Reversing drain of soldiers

The new decree also includes limitations on the consular services that can be accessed by Ukrainians abroad if their military registration documents are not updated. This particularly affects men of conscription age and could affect whether their passports and other documents can be renewed while they are abroad.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Committee criticised the decision, saying that it could negatively affect Ukrainians who require emergency or urgent assistance from consular representatives abroad.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba defended the decision on X, stating that if "a man of draft age went abroad ... and then comes and wants to receive services from this country. It does not work like that. There is a war in our country."

The move comes weeks after Zelenskyy signed a law lowering the country's minimum conscription age from 27 to 25 to boost the country's army. 

Under martial law, men in Ukraine are first drafted into regular military service and can later be mobilised to fight on the frontline by the government. 

Since February 2022, the martial law in effect has prohibited men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, unless they obtain an exemption.

Ukraine is in need of fresh troops to bolster forces in the south and east, where Russia is pressing forward with its efforts to take ground from outnumbered and outgunned troops.

Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia’s full-scale invasion, mostly to neighbouring European countries. 

The European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat says 4.3 million Ukrainians live in EU countries, including around 860,000 men 18 years or older.

Additional sources • AP

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