Black Sea standoff between Russian Federation and Ukraine inflames tensions

Black Sea standoff between Russian Federation and Ukraine inflames tensions

Ukrainian lawmakers voted on Monday to back a proposal by President Petro Poroshenko to introduce martial law for a period of 30 days in areas of the country most vulnerable to an attack from Russian Federation.

The Ukrainian navy said a Russian border guard vessel had rammed the tug boat, damaging it in an incident it said showed Russia was behaving aggressively and illegally.

According to the Russians, the Kerch Strait was closed because three Ukrainian vessels sailed through the Russian territorial waters without authorization.

Russian forces later seized all three Ukrainian ships, confiscating them for violating Russia's border. "We must stop Kremlin's war against Ukraine", he wrote on Twitter.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, said in a Facebook post that Ukraine was employing "the methods of banditry".

"It is introduced with the sole objective of boosting Ukraine's defence in the light of a growing aggression from Russian Federation".

The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss the developments on Monday at the request of Russia, said Deputy Russian UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appealed to the USA and other allies Sunday "to coordinate effective measures to protect Ukraine".

In September, Kiev announced plans to establish a naval base on the Azov, and Washington has said it is mulling more military assistance for Kiev to counter Russia's actions.

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With relations still raw after Russia's annexation of Crimea and its backing for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the incident risks pushing the two countries toward a wider conflict. Ukraine said three of its ships were captured.

They say that two Ukrainian sailors have been injured as a result of the conflict around the Kerch Strait by the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

"I want to emphasise separately that we have all irrefutable evidence that this aggression, this attack on the Ukrainian Navy's warships was not a mistake, not an accident, but a deliberate action", he said in a statement.

The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian action against the Ukrainian navy ships as "an act of aggression aimed at deliberately escalating the situation in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait", and called for global condemnation of Moscow and the imposition of new sanctions.

It said the Kerch Strait was blocked by a tanker and that Russian military aircraft were flying over the area.

Russian Federation closed the Kerch Strait for sea traffic by positioning a cargo ship under the bridge spanning it.

In a phone call with Poroshenko, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered the alliance's "full support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke by telephone with Mr Poroshenko to express her concerns and emphasise the need for de-escalation and dialogue, her office said.

Despite Moscow seizing Crimea four years ago, which has forced Ukrainian ships to run a gauntlet through Russian controlled waters, both countries have access to the Sea of Azov, which contains important Ukrainian ports, through a bilateral treaty.

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