The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday after Russia confirmed it had seized three Ukrainian naval ships by force in a strait near Moscow-annexed Crimea, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said.
WHY IT MATTERS: After Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, there has been a gap in diplomatic relationships between Western-backed Ukraine Government and the Russain-backed in Ukraine which are relentlessly fighting to retake the ‘westernized’ Ukraine.
“An emergency Security Council meeting has been called for tomorrow at 11 a.m.,” she tweeted. The meeting was requested by both Russia and Ukraine, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Russia confirmed Sunday that it has seized the Ukrainian naval ships by force in a strait near Moscow-annexed Crimea, sparking alarm among Kiev’s Western allies and raising fears of a military escalation.
According to media reports, Ukraine’s navy had accused Russia of the unprecedented incident including firing on its vessels in the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway that gives access to the Sea of Azov that is used by Ukraine and Russia.
“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” Russia’s FSB security service said, confirming that “three Ukrainian navy ships were boarded and searched.”
Fears of political escalation.
According to a BBC report, Ukraine’s parliament is to decide whether to bring in martial law as anger over the capture of three of its naval vessels by Russia spilled into the streets overnight.
Ukraine’s navy said the incident took place as two small warships and a tugboat were heading through the strait for the port of Mariupol.
It said a Russian border guard vessel rammed the tugboat in “openly aggressive actions” and then fired on the ships, immobilizing all three.
It also said the Kerch Strait was blocked by a tanker, and that Russian military aircraft were flying over the area.
Ukraine said six of its soldiers were injured, while the FSB reported only three had suffered non-life threatening injuries and were given medical treatment.
The Western world alarmed over the Russian-Ukraine confrontation.
The European Union issued a statement saying: “We expect Russia to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait and urge all to act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately.”
NATO in a statement also urged “restraint and de-escalation,” and called on Russia “to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”
The confrontation at sea is a dangerous development in the long-running conflict pitting Ukraine against Russia and Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: “Russian special forces have taken over some ships.” He called a meeting of his military cabinet to evaluate and determine his country’s next steps.
THE BIG PICTURE: According to some observers, any miscalculation on Russia-Ukraine confrontation could lead to the world war between western forces which back the Ukrainian president and Russian-backed forces.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said it considered “these aggressive actions” a violation of international law that would be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response,” and its envoy to the United Nations said on Twitter that the country will make an immediate appeal to the Security Council.
Russia for its part accused Kiev of illegally entering its waters and deliberately provoking a conflict. Moscow claims the waters off Crimea after annexing the peninsula in 2014.
The United States, a key ally to Ukraine, is opposed to Russia’s takeover of Crimea and is looking to reduce Ukraine’s dependency on Russian gas pipelines.