Russian Federation bringing captured Ukrainian sailors to court

Russian Federation bringing captured Ukrainian sailors to court

Russian Federation bringing captured Ukrainian sailors to court

Pro-Russian separatist groups, which Russia has represented in negotiations, and the Ukrainian military have been battling in Ukraine's two eastern-most regions for the past four years.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Kiev, said that the SBU has acknowledged that two fighter jets opened fire with missiles on three Ukrainian boats on Sunday. The incident occurred as the ships were sailing through the Kerch Strait, located off the coast of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 but is not yet widely recognized as Russian territory.

The Kerch Strait - a shallow, narrow stretch of water just two to three miles wide at one point - connects the Azov Sea with the Black Sea and runs between the Crimean Peninsula and Russian Federation.

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

The escalation over the weekend was the first overt military confrontation between Russian Federation and Ukraine, who've been locked in a tense stalemate since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The Ukrainian parliament late on Monday (Nov 26) voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in parts of the country for 30 days.

Poroshenko said it was necessary because of intelligence about "a highly serious threat of a ground operation against Ukraine".

On Sunday, Poroshenko convened a military cabinet emergency meeting and later tweeted he would appeal to Parliament to declare martial law.

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. He cited Ukrainian intelligence reports as saying that Russian forces were forming just kilometres from the border with Ukraine.

During an emergency UN Security Council meeting to defuse rising tensions after the confrontation, US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident "yet another reckless Russian escalation" and demanded that the Kremlin release the sailors.

The Russians claimed that the ships entered a "prohibited area"; the strait had always been dual-use under a 2003 agreement between the two countries, but since invading and annexing Crimea Russia has claimed control over the strait. The Russian coast guard blocked their way near the Kerch Strait and at one point rammed one of the Ukrainian vessels to keep it from passing through the narrow waterway.

Russia's FSB security service, which oversees border forces, confirmed weapons had been fired and the vessels seized, but accused Ukrainian ships of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings.

In any case, one Ukrainian maritime expert, Andrii Klymenko, who is editor of Black Sea News, believes he has fixed the position of the Ukrainian tug at the center of the incident.

The Kremlin has warned that Ukraine's declaration of martial law over the incident might spark a flare-up in hostilities in eastern Ukraine.

Following the November 25 incident in the Black Sea, after the Ukrainian navy vessels were taken to the port of Kerch in Russian-occupied Crimea, Russian media identified one of the detained SBU officers as Lieutenant Andriy Drach, who had been aboard the Nikopol patrol boat when it was attacked by Russia.

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

"The United States condemns this aggressive Russian action. We're all working on it together", Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

"While planning that provocation, Ukraine had undoubtedly hoped to get additional benefits from the situation, expecting the United States and Europe to blindly take the provocateurs' side", he added. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has called for calm, and an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting will be convened Monday to discuss the issue.

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