Economy

'Russian Aggression' Heightens Tensions as Russia Seizes Ukrainian Ships

'Russian Aggression' Heightens Tensions as Russia Seizes Ukrainian Ships

Mr Poroshenko said martial law was necessary because of intelligence about "a highly serious threat of a ground operation against Ukraine". He did not elaborate.

"Martial law doesn't mean declaring a war", he said.

The tense situation in the Sea of Azov comes amid the backdrop of armed conflict between the Kiev government and the Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

The move will include a partial mobilisation and strengthening of the country's air defence.

But Poroshenko also pledged to respect the rights of Ukrainian citizens.

Ukraine's navy said the men had been pressured into making the video statements, which appeared to have been pre-written.

The Kremlin had previously warned the imposition of martial law could lead to a flare up in hostilities in eastern Ukraine.

It comes as a Crimea court ordered three of the 24 Ukrainians captured on Sunday to be detained for two months.

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

He said Ukraine provoked the confrontation for political reasons.

It unilaterally annexed the peninsula after a referendum in March 2014, but failed to garner global support and recognition for the move while prompting the US and the E.U.to impose sanctions.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman, James Slack, said the incident was "further evidence of Russia's destabilizing behavior in the region and its ongoing violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity".

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"I have to emphasize that, according to the global law, Crimea and respective territorial waters are the Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation", Ukraine's UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the Security Council.

So we call on Russian Federation to release immediately the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized yesterday. "The United States will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine against this Russian aggression".

Moscow blamed Kiev for the incident, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: "The Russian side acted strictly within both domestic and global law". "Reports that Russian vessels rammed and fired on the Ukrainian ships, injuring Ukrainian crewmen, before seizing three vessels, represent a unsafe escalation and a violation of global law". The other three regions border the Black Sea or Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

"I realized that the actions of the Ukrainian navy ships were of a provocative nature", he said. The FSB said only three had suffered non-life threatening injuries and were given medical treatment. The seized Ukrainian boats were towed to a nearby port.

Poroshenko accused Moscow of a "new phase of aggression" in a conflict that has dragged out since 2014, when pro-Russian rebels and Russian forces seized territory in Ukraine's east and annexed Crimea.

The Kremlin released a statement after the call.

Asked about previous offers of mediation between Ukraine and Russia, Peskov said Russia has no need for it because it views the standoff in the Black Sea as a simple case of a border violation.

He said, "the number of units that have been deployed along our border -- what's more, along its full length -- has grown dramatically". The bridge's relatively low height limits the kinds of ships that are able to enter the Azov Sea - putting Ukraine's ports there at a new disadvantage, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty detailed in August.

This incident is a reminder that there is a war going on in Ukraine.

An extraordinary meeting of NATO-Ukraine ambassadors is planned in Brussels later Monday.

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.


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