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EU considers hitting Russia with further sanctions after navy vessels seized Ukrainian ships

The EU will consider hitting Russian with further sanctions after Vladimir Putin’s forces seized three Ukrainian ships.

Austria’s foreign minister Karin Kneissl said Sunday’s Black Sea clash would be reviewed before an EU summit in December.

Her German counterpart Heiko Maas said the dangerous escalation in tensions showed that Russia’s ‘annexation of Crimea… is also a problem for the security of us all in Europe’.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has said he is ‘seriously concerned’ about Ukraine’s decision to introduce martial law.

The Russian president warned Ukraine against any ‘reckless acts’ in the wake of Sunday’s confrontation, which saw Russian forces fire on, board and capture three vessels off the coast of Crimea. 

Vladimir Putin (pictured yesterday) says he is ‘seriously concerned’ about Ukraine’s martial law decision after Russian forces captured three of Kiev’s ships 

Ukraine's parliament last night voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in parts of the country for 30 day. He is pictured last night in parliament 

Ukraine’s parliament last night voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko’s request for the introduction of martial law in parts of the country for 30 day. He is pictured last night in parliament 

Flashpoint: Extraordinary footage captures the moment a Russian coast guard vessel rammed a Ukrainian navy tugboat under the orders 'squash him' on Sunday

Flashpoint: Extraordinary footage captures the moment a Russian coast guard vessel rammed a Ukrainian navy tugboat under the orders ‘squash him’ on Sunday

Activists from Ukraine's far right groups were pictured during a rally at Independence Square in Kiev hours before the country agreed plans to introduce martial law

Activists from Ukraine’s far right groups were pictured during a rally at Independence Square in Kiev hours before the country agreed plans to introduce martial law

Ukraine’s parliament last night voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko’s request for the introduction of martial law in parts of the country for 30 days.

But in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin expressed ‘serious concern’ over the introduction of the emergency measures, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin said Kiev’s actions were ‘clearly taken in view of the election campaign in Ukraine’. He said he hoped Berlin could intervene with Ukrainian authorities ‘to dissuade them from further reckless acts’.

Ukraine has since said that a military counterintelligence officer was seriously wounded after Russian aircraft fired missiles at Ukrainian vessels in their encounter on Sunday.

Ukraine and Russia, facing their most dangerous crisis in years, have traded accusations after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships having fired on them on Sunday.

‘According to the confirmed operational information of the SBU, one of the Russian attack aircraft used two unguided combat missiles against the Ukrainian boats, as a result of which one of the officers of the SBU was seriously wounded,’ Vasyl Hrytsak said in a statement on Monday.  

The incident was the first major confrontation at sea in the long-running conflict pitting Ukraine against Moscow and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.

It has raised fears of a wider escalation – in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014 – and prompted international calls for restraint and offers of mediation.

The conflict took place in the Kerch Strait (pictured) - where Russia said Ukrainian ships made 'unauthorised crossings'. Russia blocked the passage using a huge cargo ship (pictured) under the Kerch Bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula

The conflict took place in the Kerch Strait (pictured) – where Russia said Ukrainian ships made ‘unauthorised crossings’. Russia blocked the passage using a huge cargo ship (pictured) under the Kerch Bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula

Spain and Germany have joined EU calls for Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships (pictured) seized in the Sunday standoff.

Spain and Germany have joined EU calls for Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships (pictured) seized in the Sunday standoff.

There were furious scenes in Kiev where protesters launched flares at the Russian consulate in response to the clash in the Black Sea on Sunday

There were furious scenes in Kiev where protesters launched flares at the Russian consulate in response to the clash in the Black Sea on Sunday

Martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilise citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas.

Moscow has accused Kiev of planning Sunday’s confrontation as a provocation aimed at drumming up support for Poroshenko ahead of elections next year and convincing Western governments to impose further sanctions on Russia.

The European Union will next month consider further sanctions against Russia over the latest flare-up, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said today.

‘On the issue of further sanctions, time will tell – we have a summit in December,’ Karin Kneissl told reporters after talks with her German counterpart Heiko Maas.

‘Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed.’

Kneissl said it was ‘one side’s account versus the other’s’ in the latest tensions, in which Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow’s seizure of three of its navy vessels.

Thus the facts would need to be studied before conclusions could be drawn, she said.

Maas said the latest escalation showed ‘that the annexation of Crimea… is also a problem for the security of us all in Europe’.

He repeated Berlin’s call for Russia to release the seized ships and sailors ‘as soon as possible’.

‘Both sides must now do their part for deescalation,’ he added.

The United States and EU have already imposed sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine’s Western allies have accused Russia of using force without justification in the naval confrontation, while Kiev urged its partners to impose further sanctions on Moscow. 

Sunday’s incident has been playing out on Russian and Ukrainian television screens, with dramatic footage of Russian ships chasing down a Ukrainian tugboat that was trying to pass through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine has accused Russian border patrol vessels of ramming the tugboat, which was accompanied by two small warships, and of firing on the Ukrainian vessels.

Russia’s FSB security service, which oversees border forces, confirmed weapons had been fired and the vessels seized, but accused Ukrainian ships of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings.

Tensions have been building for months over the Kerch Strait, especially after Russia built a new bridge across the waterway that gives it a land connection to Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Moscow has so far resisted calls to release the three ships or the 24 sailors it has detained, suggesting they could face criminal action.

A 2003 treaty designated the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov (shown) as shared territorial waters, but Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015

Ukraine voted to introduce martial law as the West continued to condemn Russia for seizing three of Kiev's ships amid fears of a military escalation. Pictured: A Ukraine army APC moves towards a position at an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine yesterday

Ukraine voted to introduce martial law as the West continued to condemn Russia for seizing three of Kiev’s ships amid fears of a military escalation. Pictured: A Ukraine army APC moves towards a position at an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine yesterday

Andrey Artyomenko

Andrey Eyder

Three of those hurt in the conflict have been named as Andrey Artyomenko (left), 24, Andrey Eyder (right), 18, and Vasily Soroka, 27

In a move sure to further anger Kiev, Russian state television late on Monday aired footage of some of the captured sailors being questioned by Moscow’s security services.

One of the sailors is heard saying ‘the actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocatory character’ – parroting the version of events put forward by Russian authorities.

Western governments have rallied behind Kiev in the dispute, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov and of taking military action without justification.

Kiev urged the United States and European Union to impose more sanctions on Russia over the latest incident.

One Ukrainian navy tugboat was travelling with two  artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov 

One Ukrainian navy tugboat was travelling with two artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov 

Russia says three Ukrainian Navy vessels (pictured) illegally crossed the Russian border and intruded into Russia's territorial waters

Russia says three Ukrainian Navy vessels (pictured) illegally crossed the Russian border and intruded into Russia’s territorial waters

A small armoured Ukrainian artillery ship and a tug boat are seen anchored in the Black Sea port of Kerch, Ukraine, after being seized by Russia

A small armoured Ukrainian artillery ship and a tug boat are seen anchored in the Black Sea port of Kerch, Ukraine, after being seized by Russia

Britain, Canada, France, Germany and others expressed support for Kiev on Monday, with EU President Donald Tusk calling for Russia to return the Ukrainian sailors and ships and ‘refrain from further provocations’.

The United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session on the crisis on Monday, where US envoy Nikki Haley called the seizure of the ships an ‘outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory’ and slammed ‘yet another reckless Russian escalation’.

She did not, however, threaten further sanctions on Russia and President Donald Trump suggested it was up to European governments to handle the crisis.

‘We don’t like what’s happening and hopefully it will get straightened out. I know Europe is not – they are not thrilled. They’re working on it too. We’re all working on it together,’ Trump told reporters at the White House.

Russia and Ukraine: Key moments in their relationship

Ties between Russia and Ukraine have been turbulent since the fall of the Soviet Union, but deteriorated sharply after Kiev’s 2014 pro-EU revolution.

Amid a new peak in tensions over a naval standoff in the Sea of Azov, here is a recap of key moments in their relationship.

Limited Soviet independence

In December 1991 Ukraine votes in favour of independence from the Soviet Union in a referendum.

Russian president Boris Yeltsin accepts the vote and Russia, Ukraine and Belarus set up a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

But over the next five years, Ukraine seeks ways to escape Russia’s guardianship.

Perceiving the CIS as an attempt to bring it back under Moscow’s control, it turns towards the West and seeks ties with the US-led NATO military alliance – a no-go for Russia.

Friendship treaty

In May 1997 Russia and Ukraine sign a friendship treaty that reconciles them but without removing a main source of tension: Kiev’s ties with NATO.

It settles a key disagreement by allowing Russia to retain ownership of the majority of ships in the Black Sea fleet based in Ukraine’s Crimea while requiring that Moscow pay Kiev rent to use the port of Sevastopol.

Moscow however remains Kiev’s most important commercial partner, with Ukraine totally dependent on Russian oil and gas.

Pro-West Kiev

Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election is marred by fraud and the victory of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych provokes unprecedented protests in the peaceful Orange Revolution.

Ukraine's 2004 presidential election was marred by fraud and the victory of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych (pictured) provoked unprecedented protests in the peaceful Orange Revolution

Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election was marred by fraud and the victory of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych (pictured) provoked unprecedented protests in the peaceful Orange Revolution

It leads the vote to be cancelled and in December pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko is made president.

In January 2005 Yushchenko makes his first trip to Russia in a bid for reconciliation.

The ‘gas wars’

In January 2006 Russian gas monopoly Gazprom suspends vital shipments to Ukraine after months of disputes over the price. The cut affects onward deliveries to European countries hit by a cold snap.

Russia again in January 2009 halts gas deliveries to Ukraine owing to the non-payment of debts, also suspending for two weeks all shipments to Europe via Ukraine.

There is another halt of several months in 2014 over outstanding payments from Ukraine, which is resolved after marathon EU-brokered talks.

Pro-European uprising

In November 2013 Yanukovych, president since 2010, suspends talks on a trade and political pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

It sparks weeks of massive protests by pro-European opposition groups demanding the pro-Russian ruler quits.

The uprising, centred on Kiev’s Independence (Maidan) Square, comes to a head in February 2014 when police fire on protesters.

Nearly 90 people are killed, bringing the toll from the three-month uprising to around 100.

Yanukovych flees to Russia and an interim government is installed.

Russia annexes Crimea

Pro-Russian demonstrators clash in February 2014 with supporters of the new interim authorities in Simferopol, the capital of the Crimea peninsula.

Russian gunmen seize parliament and government buildings, and raise the Russian flag.

Pro-Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms arrange a position on top an APC near Ukrainian marines base in the city of Feodosia, Crimea, on March 23, 2014

Pro-Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms arrange a position on top an APC near Ukrainian marines base in the city of Feodosia, Crimea, on March 23, 2014

On March 16 pro-Moscow officials in Crimea hold a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

An overwhelming 97 percent of Crimeans vote in favour, although the move is deemed illegal by Kiev and Western capitals.

Two days later Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a treaty absorbing Crimea into Russia.

Separatist rebellion

In April 2014 a pro-Russian rebellion erupts in Ukraine’s industrial eastern areas with demonstrators seizing local government buildings.

Pro-Russian officials in Donetsk and Lugansk declare their regions to be independent.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of instigating the uprising and pouring in arms and troops to bolster the self-proclaimed republics. The Kremlin denies the claims. The conflict has since then left more than 10,000 people dead.

By AFP 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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