Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Here's What Happened In Russia And Ukraine's Naval Clash

Ukrainian navy accuses Russia of seizing three ships after allegedly firing on them near Crimea Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Firing At Its Ships In Black Sea
Andrew Cummings | 28 November, 2018, 06:38

Article 2 of the agreement guarantees freedom of movement through the straits and in the Sea of Azov to all Russian and Ukrainian commercial and military vessels.

Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014, a conflict that has left over 10,000 dead, but fighting has eased since a truce in 2015.

Since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014, a bridge has been built across the strait, connecting the Crimean peninsula with Russian Federation. Following an intense hours-long game of cat-and-mouse and the blocked Ukrainians' attempt to break through, the guards saw no option but to open fire and seize the vessels. Additionally, Russia continues to occupy part of Ukraine's Donbas region militarily, and that conflict still claims the lives of soldiers on both sides, sometimes daily.

The damage on one of three Ukrainian ships is seen after it had been seized, November 25, 2018, in Kerch, Crimea. A 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov as shared waters between the two countries.

Moscow has accused Kiev of planning Sunday's confrontation as a provocation aimed at drumming up support for Mr Poroshenko ahead of elections next year and convincing Western governments to impose further sanctions on Russian Federation. Poroshenko promises that martial law would not mean Ukraine's immediate mobilization for war or the restriction of civil rights.

It's also the closest point of access for Russian Federation to Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The Ukrainian parliament late on Monday voted in favour of Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days. Meanwhile Russian military intelligence released footage in which a detained Ukrainian naval officer admits to provocative actions in the waterway.

Poroshenko said he's in possession of intelligence suggesting a serious threat of a land-based operation against Ukraine by Russian Federation.

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Critics of Poroshenko say that instituting martial law could be a tactic of the current Ukrainian president to postpone an election that he is in danger of losing. Russian politicians have accused Poroshenko of deliberately instigating the standoff to boost his flagging popularity ahead of elections in March. The standoff is the result of months of rising tensions over ships navigating the Azov Sea, a body of water north of the Black Sea shared by Ukraine and Russian Federation.

The number of Russian units deployed along the Ukraine-Russian border has "grown dramatically" while the number of Russian tanks has tripled, Poroshenko said, citing intelligence reports but giving no precise timescale for the buildup.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has criticized Russia's seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels, calling it an "outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory". Tensions have been rising lately over the access to the Kerch Strait, where the incident took place, and the Sea of Azov.

Russia has released statements by three captured Ukrainian sailors after its ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin did not plan to speak to his Ukrainian counterpart about the incident.

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. The Strait links the Azov Sea to the Black Sea.

President Donald Trump said he was working with European Union leaders to assess the situation, though he refused to condemn Russian aggression. And hopefully they'll get straightened out. "We're all working on it together", Trump told reporters.

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

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