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2018-11-26 | Diplomacy

Tensions spike after Russia seizes Ukrainian ships in Sea of Azov


A protester throws down a tire to set a fire in front of the Russian embassy in Kyiv late November 25 during a protest following an incident in the Black Sea off Moscow-annexed Crimea. Russian sailors seized three Ukrainian naval vessels as they were on their way through the Kerch Strait. [SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP]

A protester throws down a tire to set a fire in front of the Russian embassy in Kyiv late November 25 during a protest following an incident in the Black Sea off Moscow-annexed Crimea. Russian sailors seized three Ukrainian naval vessels as they were on their way through the Kerch Strait. [SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP]

AFP

KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine and its Western allies Monday (November 26) demanded the release of three Ukrainian ships fired on and seized by Russia near Crimea.

Russian sailors boarded and captured the ships on Sunday, accusing them of illegally entering Russian waters off the coast of Crimea in the Sea of Azov.

The crisis unfolded as two small Ukrainian warships and a tugboat were heading through the Kerch Strait, a waterway that gives access to the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea and that both Ukraine and Russia use.


Policemen guard the Russian consulate in Odessa during a protest on November 26, after the Russian navy seized three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea. [Aleksandr Gimanov/AFP]

Policemen guard the Russian consulate in Odessa during a protest on November 26, after the Russian navy seized three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea. [Aleksandr Gimanov/AFP]


A woman takes a picture May 15, prior to the opening ceremony of the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge passing over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula. [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

A woman takes a picture May 15, prior to the opening ceremony of the 19 km road-and-rail Crimean Bridge passing over the Kerch Strait and linking southern Russia to the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula. [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

Ukraine said a Russian border guard vessel rammed the tugboat and then fired on the ships, immobilising all three. It said the Kerch Strait was blocked by a tanker and that Russian military aircraft were flying over the area.

Russia's FSB security service, which oversees border forces, confirmed weapons had been fired and the vessels seized, accusing the Ukrainian ships of "violating the Russian border".

Ukraine said six of its servicemen were injured, two seriously. The FSB said only three had suffered non-life threatening injuries and received medical treatment.

Russian news agencies quoted port officials in Crimea as saying the strait was reopened to traffic early Monday.

International consensus

The United Nations (UN) Security Council held an emergency session Monday. NATO also called an emergency meeting on the incident.

"We will demand [at the UN Security Council] the immediate release of our sailors and the liberation of our ships."

Klimkin said talks were under way with the European Union and others on increasing sanctions imposed on Russia.

France called on Russia to release the sailors and ships, with its Foreign Ministry saying "nothing appears to justify the use of force" by Russia.

Britain condemned Russia's "act of aggression" against Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said any Russian "blockade" of the Sea of Azov was "unacceptable".

On Monday he proposed that France and Germany mediate the crisis between Moscow and Kyiv.

Martial law under consideration

Tensions have been building over the Kerch Strait, where Russia has built a new bridge that gives it a land connection to Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of blocking access for Ukrainian ships though the strait, the only way in and out of the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

In recent months both sides had deployed more naval and border vessels to the area.

Ukraine's military was on high alert and parliament was to vote Monday on a request from President Petro Poroshenko to impose martial law for 30 days.

Poroshenko held a late-night meeting of his military cabinet, proposing the imposition of martial law in Ukraine "to ensure the security and safety of its citizens".

Protesters gathered in several Ukrainian cities to denounce Russia's actions, with several hundred far-right activists marching to parliament in Kyiv and setting off flares.

The confrontation is a concerning development in the long-running conflict pitting Ukraine against Moscow and Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country. More than 10,000 people have died in the fighting.

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7 Comments

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Comment bubble | 2018-11-30

Russia has turned into a terrorist country

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Comment bubble | 2018-11-30

This is the meanest, unjustified article one could believe in. It is all lies, provocations egging on Russia and twaddle. Poor harmless creatures scared to be attacked by the grey wolf. One should ask the pasture owner to punish the wolf

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Comment bubble | 2018-11-28

Interesting situation why should we inform neighbor countries about military exercises we are holding? Because of international law and mutual respect. Dear journalist, you must cover news based on reality not one-sided. International law is not American or French, it is a set of treaties based on mutual understanding and agreement of all people around the world. As Islom Karimov said there is no such thing as universal democracy. Ukraine wanted to import democracy from America, as a result Ukraine now loosing its territory and citizens. It is not surprising. Government should always act thinking about its people. Government at this moment provide source of heat to its people.

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Comment bubble | 2018-11-27

Let's wish Ukraine luck

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Comment bubble | 2018-11-27

That's a provocation by Poroshenko! The [presidential] election is looming in Ukraine. [He intends] to impose martial law and seize power.

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Comment bubble | 2018-11-27

That's a provocation by Putin who sees his approval ratings are dwindling because of the crisis [in Russia] due to the [international] sanctions imposed after the illegal occupation of Crimea.

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Comment bubble reply | 2018-11-27

I agree with you!

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