Ukraine reveals details of Russian attacks on its naval vessels

28 November, 2018, 06:37 | Author: Orlando Hughes
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Klimkin said the use of force against the Ukrainian vessels was a "show of strength" by Russia meant to buttress Russian President Vladimir Putin's falling approval ratings.

Sunday's clash is the first time Russia and Ukraine have come into open conflict in recent years, although Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists and Russia volunteers in the east since 2014.

Since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014, a bridge has been built across the strait, connecting the Crimean peninsula with Russian Federation. "Reports that Russian vessels rammed and fired on the Ukrainian ships, injuring Ukrainian crewmen, before seizing three vessels, represent a unsafe escalation and a violation of worldwide law. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russian Federation", the president said in an interview with national television.

A Reuters witness in Kerch, a port in Crimea, said the three Ukrainian vessels were being held there on Monday.

Lesovoy later adds that he was following orders to take the three ships from Odessa, on the Black Sea, to Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov and on the other side of the Kerch Strait, which is only 8.5 miles wide where it's crossed by the Crimean bridge that links Russia's Crimean Peninsula and Krasnodar Krai.

Russia's Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polanski dismissed Ukraine's claims and blamed the scuffle on Kiev's aggression. "As stated in our Crimea Declaration, the United States rejects Russia's attempted annexation of 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.

"We consider it as an act of aggression against our state and a very serious threat", Mr Poroshenko said. Russian officials accuse Poroshenko of trying to manufacture a crisis to boost his desperately low poll ratings ahead of next year's presidential elections, which he appears to be in danger of losing. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said he had asked the Red Cross to visit the group. "Therefore, we should assume that the decision to introduce martial law is an attempt to exploit the situation and increase his public support", they continued.

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

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". The other three regions border the Black Sea or Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

A video filmed from aboard a Russian vessel shows Russians chasing the Ukrainian tugboat and ramming the vessel.

By mid-afternoon Monday, there had been no response from the White House or the State Department to the crisis, but Haley said she was speaking after consulting with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

With tensions spilling over, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas suggested on Tuesday that Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine could work together to resolve the tensions between Moscow and Kiev.

"While planning that provocation, Ukraine had undoubtedly hoped to get additional benefits from the situation, expecting the USA and Europe to blindly take the provocateurs' side", he added.

Russia, however, claimed that only three Ukrainians were lightly injured, and accused Ukraine and "its Western patrons" of provoking the attack as "pretext for stepping up sanctions" against the Kremlin.

Earlier, the Russian envoy to the United Nations, Dmitriy Polyanskiy, said at a November 26 UN Security Council emergency session in NY that two SBU officers had been on board one of the Ukrainian military vessels trying to enter the Sea of Azov through the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait.



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