The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday after Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships off the coast of Crimea, the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border guard service, said it was forced to open fire on the ships on Sunday after they illegally entered Russian territorial waters.
“There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations,” it said. “These materials will soon be made public.”
Three Ukrainian sailors wounded in the clashes were in a stable condition and receiving medical care, it added.
Earlier in the day, Russia blocked access to the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea, accusing the same three Ukrainian vessels of entering its territorial waters without permission.
The two Ukrainian navy artillery boats and a tugboat were transiting from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait, a narrow passage between Crimea and the Russian mainland.
The Ukrainian navy said a Russian coast guard vessel responded to their presence by ramming the tugboat, resulting in damage to the ship’s engines and hull.
Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, shared a video on Twitter purporting to show the moment the Russian ship rammed the tugboat.
EU calls for restraint
Ukraine said Russia’s actions broke international law and vowed a “diplomatic legal response.” The FSB, it insisted, had received advance notice about the ships’ movements.
President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday that he would propose parliament declare martial law. This would restrict civil liberties and give state institutions greater power.
The European Union and NATO separately called for restraint on both sides and for Russia to restore freedom of passage via the Kerch strait.
Although a 2003 treaty designates the tow areas as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.
The latest dispute has raised concerns about a possible escalation of a wider conflict between the two neighbors.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 to widespread international condemnation. Since then, Ukraine has fought a civil war against pro-Russian separatists in the country’s eastern regions.
amp, mm/jm (dpa, Reuters)