Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared martial law in four of Ukraine’s regions, parts of which are under the control of Russian troops, as Ukrainian forces continue liberating occupied territories in the country’s east.
Putin said at an online session of the Security Council on Wednesday that he signed a decree declaring martial law in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions — all of which Russia illegally annexed last month.
Putin didn’t immediately describe the steps that would be taken under martial law, but said his order was effective starting at midnight on Thursday. His decree gives law enforcement agencies three days to submit specific proposals.
Putin’s move came as the Russian-installed leader of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region said the evacuation had started of tens of thousands of civilians and Moscow-appointed officials in the face of a Ukrainian military’s advance.Vladimir Saldo said on Wednesday that more than 5,000 people have already left the region over the past two days.
Diplomats said Tuesday the request included asking for a U.N. official to brief the council during a closed-door meeting Wednesday.
Ukrainian officials have said drones used in waves of attacks during the past week, including on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, were Iranian-made Shahed-136 attack drones that Russia used to carry explosives and crash into their targets.
Iran has denied supplying the drones to Russia, and Russian officials have denied using them.
Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told reporters Tuesday he expects more drone attacks against “many cities in Ukraine.”
Pevkur said Ukraine has managed to shoot down about half of attacking drones, but that it still needs more help. Ukrainian officials have in recent days repeated their calls for allies to provide more air defense aid.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said that in the past week alone, more than 100 Iranian-made drones have slammed into power plants, sewage treatment plants, residential buildings, bridges and other targets in urban areas.
Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said Wednesday Russia is “trying to scare the people of Kherson with fake messages about the shelling of the city by our army and are also staging a propaganda show with evacuation.”