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Martial law ends in Ukraine a month after Russian naval attack

Martial law was imposed after a naval confrontation off the disputed Crimean Peninsula amid renewed tensions between the neighbors.
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KIEV — Martial law, imposed on Nov. 25 in some Ukrainian areas after a naval confrontation in which Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels, expired on Wednesday, President Petro Poroshenko told the country's security council.

Poroshenko said earlier this month he did not plan to extend martial law beyond the one month initially foreseen unless there was a large scale attack from Russia amid renewed tensions between the neighbors.

The Ukrainian navy ships were captured in the Kerch Strait, between Russian-annexed Crimea and southern Russia, which controls access to the Sea of Azov, where there are both Russian and Ukrainian ports.

Moscow said the ships entered Russian waters while trying to cross the strait without prior notice, ignoring orders to stop. Kiev said its ships needed no Russian permission to cross the strait.

Under the martial law, Ukraine banned Russian men of combat age from entering the country and boosted security at critical sites such as nuclear power stations and Black Sea ports.

Ukraine's military chief said this month Russia had been ramping up its forces near the border since August and now poses the greatest military threat since 2014, the year it annexed Crimea.

Meanwhile Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday it hoped Western countries would not take part in any Ukrainian attempt to stage what it called "a provocation" near the Kerch Strait and dissuade Kiev from escalating tensions in the area.

Ukraine said last week it planned to send warships to its Azov Sea ports via the Kerch Strait despite Russia's seizure of three navy vessels and their crews in the area in November.

British defense minister Gavin Williamson visited Ukraine last week where he told his Ukrainian counterpart that the Black Sea did not belong to Russia and that Britain had sent a Royal Navy ship there to show Kiev did not stand alone.