Published: Wed, November 28, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Russia-Ukraine tensions soar after confrontation at sea

Russia-Ukraine tensions soar after confrontation at sea

"Sunday's outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory is part of a pattern of Russian behavior that includes the purported annexation of Crimea and abuses against countless Ukrainians in Crimea, as well as stoking conflict that has taken the lives of more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine".

Since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014, a bridge has been built across the strait, connecting the Crimean peninsula with Russian Federation.

Shortly after Russian border guards seized the Ukrainian ships off Crimea, France's Foreign Ministry said "nothing justifies" Russia's use of force. Russia's Federal Security Service blamed Ukraine for the incident, saying its ships made an unauthorized passage through Russian territorial waters.

Most Council members condemned the increased tensions, also calling for the release of both the sailors and ships.

The Kerch Strait - a shallow, narrow stretch of water just two to three miles wide at one point - connects the Azov Sea with the Black Sea and runs between the Crimean Peninsula and Russian Federation.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said Stoltenberg expressed the USA -led military alliance's "full support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its full navigational rights in its territorial waters under global law". Ukraine also condemned the opening of a multibillion-dollar bridge in May that spans the strait to connect Russian Federation and Crimea.

The Ukrainian parliament late on Monday voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days.

At a United Nations gathering, Volodymyr Yelchenko, the permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, said Russia's version of events combines fact and fiction, arguing that this was an "act of open military aggression".

The parliament nonetheless watered down Poroshenko's request amid fears that it was an attempt to postpone elections next March in which he is now projected to lose. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said he had asked the Red Cross to visit the group.

Poroshenko's call also outraged far-right groups in Ukraine that have advocated severing diplomatic ties with Russian Federation.

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On November 25, Russian Coast Guard boats attempted to stop a Ukrainian tugboat as it was on its way to transit the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea into the Azov Sea, between Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

On Tuesday, the country's state security service announced that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russian Federation.

Putin spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel early Tuesday, expressing "serious concern" about what martial law in Ukraine might entail.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump told reporters outside the White House Tuesday that he was "not happy about it at all", but refused to take the belligerent stance his United Nations envoy, Nikki Haley, adopted the previous day. "This should be the stance of a court", the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters during a conference call.

The opening of an additional front at sea, even if Ukraine lacks a real navy, introduced an unstable element into what had been a shadowy war.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has urged both countries to use "maximum restraint" and avoid further escalation.

Kaljulaid said that she is calling on the global community and the leaders of the democratic world to join her in this statement and clearly, jointly and without delay condemn Russia's aggression and demand an end to it.

"We do not like what's happening either way", Trump said, "and hopefully it will get straightened out".

Just before the parliament met to vote, Poroshenko sought to allay those fears by releasing a statement revising his original martial law proposal from 60 days to just 30 days, in order to "do away with the pretexts for political speculation".

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