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US, NATO Warn Russia of Potential Consequences for Attack on Ukrainian Navy

28 November 2018
US, NATO Warn Russia of Potential Consequences for Attack on Ukrainian Navy

Following the November 25 incident in the Black Sea, after the Ukrainian navy vessels were taken to the port of Kerch in Russian-occupied Crimea, Russian media identified one of the detained SBU officers as Lieutenant Andriy Drach, who had been aboard the Nikopol patrol boat when it was attacked by Russia.

Their statements come two days after Russian border guards fired at three Ukrainian navy vessels as they were trying to make their way through the Kerch Strait near Russian-occupied Crimea. It was not clear whether the sailors' confessions, given in the custody of Russia's security services, were made under duress. "Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels & refrain from further provocations", EU President Donald Tusk tweeted.

All the men appeared to be reciting memorized texts and one of them was clearly reading from a teleprompter.

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.

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in long-simmering conflict since the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and a war with Russian-backed separatists in the country's east has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley issued a statement on behalf of the Trump administration, decrying what she called an "outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory".

Moscow blamed Kiev for the incident, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: "The Russian side acted strictly within both domestic and worldwide law".

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement Russia's actions were a violation of the UN Charter and global law, and pledged to "promptly inform our partners about Russia's aggressive actions". He cited Ukrainian intelligence reports as saying that Russian forces were forming just kilometres from the border with Ukraine.

Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 in the aftermath of the turbulent period when Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled after weeks of pro-European protests. "We're all working on it together", Trump told reporters.

The countries have been at loggerheads since Russian Federation seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed an insurgency in the eastern Donbass region that has killed more than 10,000 people despite a notional ceasefire.

But he insisted it was necessary because what happened in the Kerch Strait between Crimea and the Russian mainland "was no accident", adding that "this was not the culmination of it yet". "And hopefully it will get straightened out".

"I know those sailors from Nikopol".

The UK condemned Russia's "destabilising behaviour in the region and its ongoing violation of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty".

"I condemn Russian use of force in Azov Sea".

A video posted to Twitter shows a Russian boat purposely ramming a Ukrainian tugboat on Sunday near the Kerch Strait.

Last week former Ukrainian general Igor Romanenko said the shipping dispute between Moscow and Kiev in the Sea of Azov is at risk of escalating into a "great war".

But Ukraine's foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said "Ukraine will seek to settle the row in a peaceful manner", even though its armed forces have been put on alert.

Squabbles over control of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, which connects to the Black Sea to the south, are nothing new.

Moscow is able to control access between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea after it built a bridge that straddles the Kerch Strait between Crimea and southern Russian Federation.