Photo Credit: US Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in Parliament, May 20, 2019

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky called up men ages 18 to 60 for the military reserves on Wednesday but did not introduce a general mobilization after Russian parliamentarians voted Tuesday to give President Vladimir Putin authorization to use military force abroad.

Earlier, Putin formally recognized the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that together comprise the Donbas, as independent sovereign entities. He added that recognition extends even to the two-thirds of those areas now held by Ukraine’s forces, including the port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

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In addition, Ukraine has recalled its ambassador to Moscow, and its estimated three million citizens living in Russia were urged to leave there immediately. A travel advisory was issued warning citizens not to travel to Russia.

Russia evacuated its diplomats from its embassy in Kiev and its consulate in Odessa, completing the operation by Wednesday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency, and AFP.

State of Emergency Readied Amid Cyberattacks
The Ukraine parliament (Rada) voted Wednesday to declare 30-day state of emergency, according to government spokesperson Oleksiy Danilov. The state of emergency will apply to the entire country, except the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where the status has been in place since Russia seized and annexed Crimea in 2014.

A state of emergency empowers authorities to choose which restrictions to implement, including those on transport and labor strikes for example, and extra protection for critical infrastructure.

“These are preventive measures to keep calm in the country so that our economy and our country can work,” Danilov told reporters.

A range of Ukrainian governmental websites were targeted Wednesday in a massive cyberattack, including those of the parliament (Rada), the foreign ministry and the security services, among others.

Ukraine Prepares for War
Ukraine is bracing for a possible military offensive from Russia, which sent troops into eastern Ukraine to support the Donbas region, comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk, two breakaway areas whose independence was formally recognized this week by Moscow.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and six more were wounded Wednesday after shelling by Russian-backed separatist forces, Kiev’s military said. Separatists said there were explosions overnight and three civilian deaths. More than 96,000 residents of the Donbas have crossed into Russian territory since last Friday, the PBS News Hour reported.

New measures have been introduced on the use of radios, drone activities, presence of foreigners near the border zone and filming and photography of certain people and buildings, according to Ukraine’s state border guard service, as quoted by Reuters.

More Diplomats Leaving, More Sanctions Imposed
Australia, which temporarily relocated its embassy operations from Kiev to Levov earlier this month, has now shut down the diplomatic mission altogether, albeit “temporarily.”

In a statement Tuesday, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said her government has directed Australian officials to depart Ukraine and urged all Australians to leave Ukraine “immediately.”

She added the Australian government is coordinating closely with the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and other governments around the world to “ensure there are severe costs for Russia’s aggression.”

In the United States, President Joe Biden added the company that built the Nord Stream 2 project to the list of those to be sanctioned.

“I have directed my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers,” he said in a statement. “These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate,” he added.

‘We Are Not Afraid of Anything’
Ukraine’s president said in an address to his nation on Tuesday that his population should not fear.

“We are on our land, we are not afraid of anything and anyone, we don’t owe anything to anyone, and we will not give away anything to anyone. And we are confident of this,” Zelensky said in his video address.

He vowed that Ukraine’s international borders will “remain as such” despite “declarations and threats” from Moscow.

The Ukraine president added that his country was counting on the “clear and effective steps” from its international supporters. He reiterated that Ukraine wants “peace” but has been prepared for Russian aggression for a “long time,” and thanked his people for their cool-headed responses to the situation.

He told Ukraine’s citizens there was no reason for a “sleepless night.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.