Troubled waters: What's behind the Russia, Ukraine naval standoff?

Troubled waters: What's behind the Russia, Ukraine naval standoff?

Troubled waters: What's behind the Russia, Ukraine naval standoff?

The flare-up is the first outright clash between Ukraine and Russian forces for years, although pro-Russian separatists and Russian "volunteers" have been fighting Ukraine's army in two eastern regions.

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

Crimea's rights ombudsman Lyudmila Lubina said the court has ordered three people to be held until 25 January on accusations of crossing into Russian territory illegally. Ukraine's government declared martial law on Monday in response to the attack, and the incident led to public protests and worldwide condemnations of Russian Federation.

The damage on one of three Ukrainian ships is seen after it had been seized, November 25, 2018, in Kerch, Crimea.

Antonio Guterres said he was "greatly concerned" about the situation and called on "both parties to exercise maximum restraint and to take steps without delay to contain this incident and reduce tensions".

Ukraine's Western allies have accused Russian Federation of using force without justification in the naval confrontation, while Kiev urged its partners to impose further sanctions on Moscow.

Russia's Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polanski dismissed Ukraine's claims and blamed the scuffle on Kiev's aggression.

"There's room to close that gap", Sleboda said, "and a little bit of military patriotic excitement, presenting him as the protector of the country against Russian aggression, is exactly what was called for".

Moscow, in turn, has accused Kiev of staging a planned provocation aimed at stirring up the conflict between the two neighbors and justifying the imposition of martial law ahead of the presidential vote in March, in which President Petro Poroshenko is trailing behind several candidates in polls.

The naval confrontation took place as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov.

The Russian foreign ministry went further in its statement, saying that the attempt at "provoking a conflict with Russia" was carried out by Ukraine "in coordination with the United States and the European Union".

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On Monday, Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the U.N., called the incident an "outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory" and "another reckless Russian escalation" during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

The Russian leader also said he hoped "Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts", a statement said.

Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone in the early hours on Tuesday, and the Russian president expressed a "serious concern" about what the martial law in Ukraine might entail.

After Russia opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels on Sunday near Russian-annexed Crimea, both Russia and Ukraine are trying to cast the other side as being in the wrong.

While other USA officials took a strong stand behind Ukraine, President Donald Trump seemed more equivocal.

During the confrontation, a Russian ship also rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and Russian crews fired at the tugboat and two navy vessels. "We're all working on it together", Trump told reporters.

His Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov blamed Kiev for what he described as a "provocation", adding: "Ukraine had undoubtedly hoped to get additional benefits from the situation, expecting the U.S. and Europe to blindly take the provocateurs' side".

EU President Donald Tusk condemned Russian use of force in the clashes with Ukrainian ships.

An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council was called for Monday, while the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation called for restraint from both sides.

Declaring martial law could potentially allow Poroshenko to postpone the vote and rally more support through anti-Kremlin appeals.

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