Feb 23, 2022 - World

Ukraine to declare 30-day state of emergency

Ukraine's president in military gear
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a military drill outside the city of Rivne, in northern Ukraine. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of a possible large-scale Russian invasion, Ukraine's government has moved to introduce a 30-day state of emergency, call up military reservists between the ages of 18 and 60 and allow ordinary civilians to carry firearms.

Why it matters: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he does not expect an "all-out war against Ukraine" but that he will "put Ukraine on a war footing" if there is a "broad escalation" from Russia. [Latest updates on Russia-Ukraine crisis.]

Details: The state of emergency will apply to all of Ukraine except for the territory in the east occupied by Russian and pro-Russian separatist forces.

  • It will allow the government to impose additional security measures and inspections, pending parliamentary approval, and could be extended a further 30 days.
  • The Ukrainian government has also called on millions of Ukrainian citizens to leave Russia, warning that it could become difficult to ensure their safety in a hostile country.

Between the lines: Some Western officials have been puzzled that Zelensky hadn't taken similar steps before or ordered a full national mobilization. But the president has long argued that causing "panic" would destabilize the country at the worst possible moment.

  • "There's been this perception that they've been downplaying the threat, and that they're therefore not prepared. That's completely inaccurate," a source in contact with the Ukrainian government tells Axios.
  • "They're as prepared as they can be. And boy are they going to fight. I do believe that the Russians don't quite understand what they're going to face," the source added.

The big picture: Zelensky does not intend to relocate himself and his team from the capital Kyiv to Lviv, in western Ukraine — to protect himself against what U.S. officials warn would be a devastating assault, complete with Russian missiles raining down on the city and the paralysis of electronic communications.

  • "The president will not be running away from his own capital," another source close to Zelensky told Axios' Jonathan Swan.
  • But the mood in Kyiv is "much more nervous than it was even 48 hours ago," the source said.

What they're saying: "Plan A is to utilize every tool of diplomacy, to deter Russia and prevent further escalation," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.

  • "And if that fails, plan B is to fight for every inch of our land, and every city and every village. To fight until we win."

What to watch: Russian forces have entered the occupied territories in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, but it's still unclear whether they will move beyond the "line of contact" or seek a confrontation with Ukrainian forces.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the borders of the separatist "republics" he recognized extend to territory controlled by the Ukrainian government — the clearest indication yet that he may soon instigate a war.

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