What is martial law? EU worried about Putin plans to further isolate Russians

Ukrainian president Zelensky says Russians need to protest

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Mr Putin faces pressure on several fronts, as he fights an unexpectedly united western world and increasing domestic opposition. Pictures from Russia show locals defying his regime as they navigate the fallout from unprecedented sanctions on their nation. So far, enforcement has focussed on deterring demonstrations by locking away their participants and organisers, but it could soon progress to martial law.

What is martial law?

To Mr Putin, martial law is likely the next logical step to clamp down on Russian dissidents.

The policy places military officials in control of a given city or region, typically in events of extraordinary threat to the local populace.

The exact composition of this rule will vary by country and government but traditionally suspend liberties and civil rights in the name of safety.

With civilian institutions such as courts suspended, military versions operate in their place.

The duration of martial law also varies, ranging from days to weeks, months or indefinitely.

The decision of applying it comes down to the presiding government and may, in some cases, be used to oppress and control locals.

In Russia, where there is less risk to Russian nationals than Ukrainians, it may serve to disperse organised protests.

Intelligence curated by the EU and Ukraine suggests that Mr Putin could venture down this route this week.

A Brussels official claimed the bloc uncovered signs that the administration is preparing to further isolate Russians via social media.

They said martial law is something they are “very conscious of” and “worried about”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesky’s advisors shared similar concerns.

Speaking earlier today, they revealed fears Russia would approve martial law by Friday.

The local configuration, they claimed, could include a ban on protests, further disconnection with the west, food and financial measures.

So far, Russia has denied these claims, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissing rumours the government would introduce new laws or ban men from leaving the country.

But this has done little to comfort Russians, who are now reportedly fleeing the country in their thousands.

Despite widespread international bans on Russian airlines and flights, they have attempted to relocate as Mr Putin’s army rounds on Kyiv.

According to the Reuters news agency, some Moscow residents have rushed to locations yet to ban inbound flights from Russia.

One told the agency that he had bought a flight to Istanbul for the weekend, while another added he was bound for the Middle East.

Both expressed fears they would have to fight Ukraine or risk arrest.

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