KIEV – Ukraine has tightened control over its border, imposing new entry restrictions for foreigners and banning Russian men after President Petro Poroshenko introduced martial law and warned that the Kremlin may be preparing an invasion.
The ban on men aged 16 to 60 intensified tensions between the former Soviet neighbors that flared up last week when Russian warships fired on Ukrainian vessels before seizing them and capturing two dozen sailors. Following the incident in the Kerch Strait off the coast of Crimea, which Russia seized with its military in 2014, Ukraine declared a state of martial law for 30 days.
“As of today, the entrance of foreigners is limited, first of all for citizens of Russia,” Petro Tsygykal, the head of state border guard service, told Poroshenko Friday, according to a statement on the presidential website.
The border service has increased the number of troops on the frontiers with Russia and Crimea, Tsygykal said. That followed a warning from Poroshenko that Ukrainian intelligence services had ascertained Russia was amassing tanks and ships across the border and there was a “threat of full-scale war.”
Poroshenko said the entry ban and other measures will hamper Russia from “forming squads of private armies that are representatives of Russian official troops and will not allow them to carry out operations, which they tried to do in 2014.”
Poroshenko said he is also seeking to tighten the registration process for Russian citizens who are already in Ukraine, especially in the 10 regions along the border where martial law is in effect.
Moscow has decided that mirroring the Ukrainian ban in retaliation doesn’t make sense, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.