By Indri Schaelicke | United States
On Sunday, Russian Navy vessels opened fire and seized 3 Ukrainian Navy ships. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense stated that Russia’s navy attacked, boarded and seized the small gunboats Berdyansk and Nikopol as well as the tugboat accompanying them, Yana Kapu. Earlier in the day, Russia had closed the Kersch straight, a strip of water connecting the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Russia blocked passage under the bridge spanning the distance across the strait using a tanker. Both Russia and Ukraine use this passage to move cargo and military ships.
This escalation of tensions comes as the Ukrainian Parliament is preparing to vote on a proposition to instate martial law. Speculation has arisen on the internet as some find the timing of this incident and the calls to establish Martial Law too good to be true. Some believe that Ukrainian President Poroshenko, who has been doing terribly in recent polls, may have intentionally provoked Russia into attacking the ships so that he could have a reason to establish Martial Law. This would push back the upcoming elections, which are due to take place in a few months time. President Poroshenko stated he would call upon the parliament to vote on enstating Martial Law on Monday. He insisted it was not a declaration of war, but rather would allow the country to strengthen its military.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, which oversees its Coast Guard, said there was “irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations … in the Black Sea. These materials will soon be made public.”
Russia says that it needed to fire on the ships to get them to stop. In fact, Russian state news agency TASS stated that the Ukrainian vessels were carrying out dangerous maneuvers.
Tensions on the seas have spilled over onto the streets, with protestors throwing flares at the Russian embassy in Kiev. Others are also placing small folded paper boats near the embassy’s entrance.
Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescu said that the strategic military alliance would be closely monitoring the situation and called upon both sides to de-escalate the mounting tensions regarding the Ukrainian vessels.
“Nato fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters. We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.
This story will update continually. Check back for further developments.
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