Ukraine to send naval ships through Kerch Strait soon

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD - MINSK, BE­LARUS

Ukraine’s de­fence min­istry warned Rus­sia on Fri­day that it will soon send navy ships through the Kerch Strait where Rus­sia fired on and seized three Ukrainian ves­sels two weeks ago.

The an­nounce­ment sets up an­other pos­si­ble flash­point in the long-sim­mer­ing con­flict be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine that erupted in 2014 with Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of the Crimean penin­sula burst into the open on Nov. 25 when Rus­sian bor­der guards opened fire on three Ukrainian navy ves­sels that were mov­ing through the Kerch Strait near Crimea and seized the ships and their crews.

Ukraine re­sponded by in­tro­duc­ing mar­tial law for 30 days, a mea­sure Kyiv did not take even af­ter Crimea’s an­nex­a­tion and amid large-scale fight­ing be­tween Ukrainian forces and Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists in 2014-2015.

As part of mar­tial law, Ukraine has beefed up its forces on the bor­der with Rus­sia and called up re­servists for train­ing.

Ukrainian De­fence Min­is­ter Stepan Poltorak told re­porters on Fri­day that his coun­try in­tends to send naval ships through the Kerch Strait soon, say­ing that “oth­er­wise Rus­sia will fully oc­cupy the Sea of Azov.’’

Ukraine has ports both on the Black Sea and on the Sea of Azov which are linked by the Kerch Strait that sep­a­rates Crimea from Rus­sia.

More than 140 ships were stuck on both sides of the strait on Fri­day due to ex­ces­sive checks and de­lays on the Rus­sian side, the Ukrainian Bor­der Guard Ser­vice said, ac­cus­ing Rus­sia of cre­at­ing a bot­tle­neck for Ukrainian ships and pre­vent­ing them from pass­ing.

Speak­ing in Rome at a min­is­te­rial meet­ing of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov brushed off sug­ges­tions Rus­sia could re­lease or ex­change the 24 Ukrainian sea­men cap­tured in last month’s mar­itime con­fronta­tion. Lavrov said it was too early to speak about any of­fers of a pris­oner swap un­til Rus­sia’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dent is com­pleted and the ser­vice­men are put on trial for vi­o­lat­ing the Rus­sian bor­der.

Lavrov also re­acted to a sug­ges­tion by Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas to ex­pand the OSCE mon­i­tor­ing mis­sion to the Sea of Azov, say­ing that Rus­sia “has no need’’ for any in­ter­me­di­aries or mon­i­tors in the area.

AP PHOTO

Vol­un­teers with the right-wing para­mil­i­tary Azov Na­tional Corps shouts slo­gans dur­ing a rally against Rus­sia in front of the Ukrainian Pres­i­dent’s of­fice in Kyiv, Ukraine, Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.