Ukraine Declares State of Emergency, May Ban Some Political Activities

The Ukrainian government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the chances of military conflict with Russia continue to increase.

The decision comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the rebel-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions and sent troops into both places. The state of emergency declaration reflects growing concern in Ukraine that a full-scale Russian invasion could come at any moment.

The state of emergency will last 30 days, starting Thursday, and will allow the government to limit movement and rallies, as well as banning political parties and organizations, according to the Associated Press. It also permits the government to carry out transportation inspections and "inspections of individuals' documents," mandate curfews and ban "information materials that could destabilize the situation in the country."

The government said the measures are "in the interests of national security and public order." Ukrainian security official Oleksiy Danilov said the state of emergency could be expanded by an additional 30 days if needed, Reuters reported.

Danilov told the Financial Times the rules will be stricter in areas closer to the Russian and Belarusian borders, as well as in Russian-occupied Crimea. Donetsk and Luhansk have been under a state of emergency since 2014.

On Tuesday, the Russian government approved Putin's plan to send troops into eastern Ukraine, where a Russia-backed rebellion has been ongoing for the past eight years. The same day, Russia decided to evacuate its diplomats from the capital of Kyiv as well as Odessa, Lviv and Kharkiv.

On Wednesday, several Ukrainian government websites once more became the target of cyberattacks, which many observers suspect were caused by Russian hackers.

Some Western countries said Russia's moving into the separatist regions, known collectively as the Donbas, could be seen as an invasion, the AP reported. Meanwhile, an unnamed U.S. defense official told the AP the thousands of Russian troops positioned within miles of the Ukrainian border are "as ready as they can be" for an invasion, adding that about 80 percent are in "forward positions, ready to go."

Ukraine's parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, decided Wednesday to redistribute part of its budget to shift funds into national security, Business Insider reported.

European countries and the United States have already begun to impose sanctions on Russia in response to its military buildup and the entry of troops into the Donbas. In a statement posted on Twitter, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba called for Ukraine's allies to impose more sanctions.

"First decisive steps were taken yesterday, and we are grateful for them," he wrote. "Now the pressure needs to step up to stop Putin. Hit his economy and cronies. Hit more. Hit hard. Hit now."

Update 02/23/22, 4:40 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Germany
Ukraine has declared a state of emergency after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his support for independence in the country's rebel-held regions. Above, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a statement during the Munich Security Conference on February 19. Photo by Ronald Wittek/Pool/Getty Images