Russian Federation reopens strait near Crimea, accuses Ukraine of provoking incident

Russian Federation reopens strait near Crimea, accuses Ukraine of provoking incident

It comes after Ukraine accused Russia of firing on and seizing three of its ships in the Black Sea, close to Crimea, which was annexed by the Russians in 2014.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that "the United States would welcome a normal relationship with Russian Federation".

Ukraine will be under martial law for 30 days after the country's Parliament voted to support President Petro Poroshenko's motion, arguing it was needed to fight "growing aggression from Russia".

The hostilities began when Russia blocked two Ukrainian military boats and one tugboat from sailing under a new Russian bridge spanning the Kerch strait, the channel that connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea to the south.

Six sailors were wounded after the Ukrainian navy said two artillery boats were hit by the strikes in the Black Sea.

Protesters, some armed with flares, rallied outside the Russian embassy in Kiev on Sunday night in response to the latest development.

The developments are seen as a Russian strategy to block Ukraine from the Azov Sea and worldwide shipping, and from transforming it into a military outpost.

The decision came a day after Russian Federation fired at and captured three Ukrainian vessels, triggering a sharp escalation in tensions between the two countries.

Lavrov said Ukraine had violated worldwide norms with "dangerous methods that created threats and risks for the normal movement of ships in the area".

The image released by the Ukrainian Navy
The image released by the Ukrainian Navy

"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.

But she did not threaten further sanctions, instead calling for a de-escalation of tensions.

European Union foreign ministers will discuss a range of issues in Brussels on Monday (19 November), including for the first time the militarisation of the Azov Sea, which according to diplomats has been effectively blockaded by Russian Federation.

Ukraine's representative in the humanitarian subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) for the Donbas settlement and First Deputy Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Gerashchenko has said martial law does not mean an automatic cancellation of elections in Ukraine.

The FSB, which oversees the border guard service, also said the Ukrainian ships had failed to respond to the "legal demands" of the Russian authorities. Crimea, on the western shore, is now controlled by Moscow, the eastern shore is Russian territory, and the northern shore is controlled by Ukraine.

A Russian ship rammed into the tugboat, damaging it, the Ukrainian navy added.

Since last April the Russian navy has also subjected to inspections over 150 ships going to and from the Ukrainian ports.

Amid the Black Sea standoff, popular Russian TV host Dmitry Kiselyov told state television that Poroshenko was picking a fight with Russia at the prompting of the United States.

Ukraine said its vessels were heading to the Sea of Azov in line with the worldwide maritime rules. At the moment, they are heading at full speed in the direction of the Kerch Strait to the zone where provocation was organized by the Ukrainian side.

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