Lawmakers in the Ukraine on Monday are considering a request from their president for the introduction of martial law in the country. The request came after a disturbing incident in which Russian coast guard ships fired their weapons at Ukrainian navy vessels.
Ukraine’s president also on Monday told Russia that they should immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it had captured in a naval confrontation near Crimea. The incident has escalated tensions between the two countries which already had a very troubled relationship.
Russia’s actions also led to international expressions of outrage and concern.
- An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council was called for Monday.
- The European Union and NATO issued statements calling for restraint from both sides, as they hoped cooler heads would prevail.
- Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas called an extraordinary meeting of the government’s security committee to discuss the Russian action.
Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, called a meeting of Ukraine’s national security council on Monday and said that “we demand that (the ships and crews) are urgently turned over to the Ukrainian side” and called for a “de-escalation” of the crisis around Crimea.
Unsurprisingly both countries blamed the other for the incident that could lead to escalation of conflicts between the two countries. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and also supported a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine at the same time.
Ukraine said in a statement that its vessels were acting in accordance with international maritime rules as they were traveling through the Sea of Azov. Russia, however, charged that the Ukrainian ships failed to obtain permission to pass through the Kerch Strait separating Crimea from the Russian mainland.
Poroshenko held an emergency meeting of his Cabinet on Monday and also requested that the Ukraine parliament introduce martial law as a response to the Russian “aggression.”
“We consider it as an act of aggression against our state and a very serious threat,” Poroshenko said. “Unfortunately, there are no ‘red lines’ for the Russian Federation.”
Russia, however, blamed the Ukrainians for instigating the incident.
“Three Ukrainian ships which were involved in a provocation in Russian territorial waters have been delivered to the port of Kerch. The crews were obviously acting intentionally,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters. “As we understand it, this provocation and the complex of provocative actions have been planned ahead of time.”
A spokesperson for the European Union’s diplomatic service released a statement condemning the Russian action. The statement said, in part:
“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. “
“The EU does not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia.”