Ukraine’s parliament is furious and wants to implement martial law ever since Russia captured three of its naval vessels. Protests took stage outside the Russian embassy in the capital Kiev, few protesters also set an embassy car on fire.
Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters although, Ukraine’s Berdyansk and Nikopol gunboats, and the Yani Kapu tug, sailed from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries. The Ukrainian navy then said that the boats had been hit and were disabled as they tried to leave the area that the Russians tried to intercept the ships. The vessels continued towards the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov, but were blocked by a tanker placed under the Kerch bridge. 23 Ukrainians were on board and six crew members had been injured although Russia claims that they had to forcefully seize the boat for security reasons and that only three sailors were injured.
The Kerch Bridge belongs to Russia and links mainland Russia to Crimea even though Ukraine opposed them from constructing it. Since the construction of the bridge, tension between them has been building up for months off Crimea but under a 2003 treaty between the governments in Moscow and Kiev, the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov are shared territorial waters.
“We gathered here today to protest against Russians over their actions today, over shooting of our military,” Oleksiy Ryabov – a protestor told Reuters.
“We are very angry. We should have severed all diplomatic relations with this country a long time ago.”
The incident took place in the waters off the Crimean Peninsula and has escalated into tension between the two countries.
But recently there, Russia began inspecting all vessels sailing to or from Ukrainian ports.The use of force by Russia to seize Ukrainian vessels – with casualties – is a major escalation.
Under President Vladimir Putin, when Russia has used force before, its line of defence has always been: “We didn’t start it.” That goes for the Russia-Georgia War of 2008, and the appearance of “Little Green Men” (Russian special forces) in Crimea in 2014, which preceded Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula.
Tension between Ukraine and Russia has risen and has escalated ever since they tried to blame each other for an incident where two gunboats and a tug were captured and many Ukrainian crew members were injured. The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting to discuss this situation.
They also have been debating over access to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov off the Crimean peninsula – annexed by Russia in 2014.
Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country – but this is the first time the two militaries have come into open conflict in recent years.
Russia has accused Ukraine of violating legal norms by sending the vessels into the area in a “pre-planned provocation” and in contradiction Ukraine says it had informed the Russians in advance about their plan to move their ships through the sea to Mariupol, and said their seizure was just “another act of armed aggression” by Russia.