Ukraine Declares Martial Law Following Sea Clash with Russia

28 November, 2018, 06:38 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Ukraine Russia

Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's industrial heartland that borders Russia have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014, but the hostilities have largely subsided since a truce was signed in 2015.

A newly built Russian bridge opened by Putin himself now spans the strait, which Moscow hopes will solidify its claim to adjoining Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula it forcibly annexed in 2014.

The Ukrainian navy, on the other hand, said Russian border patrol vessels "carried out openly aggressive action" against the Ukrainian ships. Speaking three days before the maritime clash, Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine's defense minister, cautioned that the Donbas conflict was re-entering an "active phase", saying he expected more open moves by Russian Federation.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has demanded the immediate return of the country's sailors and ships, calling the FSB's actions a violation of global law. "Ready at any moment for an immediate invasion of Ukraine", he said.

The confrontation has prompted Ukraine's parliament on Monday to approve a motion from its president, Petro Poroshenko, to impose martial law in some regions for 30 days.

The presence of Ukrainian counterintelligence officers on board the vessels also is being highlighted by the Kremlin and on state media as evidence of Kyiv's dark intent.

"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".

Poroshenko wrote on Twitter that he declined to impose martial law for 60 days to avoid affecting residential election campaigns.

The parliament nonetheless watered down Poroshenko's request amid fears that it was an attempt to postpone elections next March in which he is now projected to lose. A 2003 agreement confirms the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait as domestic waters of Russian Federation and Ukraine. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said he had asked the Red Cross to visit the group.

Russia Putin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

Several countries have condemned Russia's actions on Monday, and the UN Security Council failed to agree a Russian-proposed agenda, and instead discussed a Ukrainian proposal on the issue.

In a post on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the incident had been devised to "divert attention from the internal problems that are ravaging Ukraine and blame the neighbor responsible for all of Ukraine's troubles".

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

Russia has accused Poroshenko of instigating Sunday's naval incident, in which Russian vessels fired on, rammed and then seized three Ukrainian vessels, as a pretext for declaring martial law with the aim of delaying elections in March.

Sunday's incident, Ukrainian officials say, is a direct result of the lack of Western reaction to the unfolding imposition of a de facto sea border, which has been slowly but surely throttling access to the Sea of Azov and the Ukraine's important Mariupol industrial region. The men said they deliberately ignored repeated requests by the Russian coast guard to stop.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ships are allowed into the Black sea for a limited time and without heavy weapons.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the clash in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov - a body of water containing both Russian and Ukrainian ports.

As world leaders denounced Russia's aggression against Ukraine, President Donald Trump waited more than a day before offering a muted response about the clash, leaving the task of criticizing Moscow to the outgoing United States ambassador to the UN. In a brief statement Monday afternoon, he told reporters: "We do not like what's happening, either way, we don't like what's happening and hopefully it will get straightened out".

A statement from the UN secretary general urged both sides "to take steps without delay to contain this incident and reduce tensions through all available peaceful means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations".


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