Ukraine leader urges Ger­man naval pres­ence in Black Sea

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

MOSCOW — Ukraine’s leader called on Ger­many and its al­lies to boost their naval pres­ence in the Black Sea to de­ter Rus­sia from fur­ther ag­gres­sion in the re­gion and said Rus­sia was blockad­ing Ukrainian ports on the nearby Sea of Azov.

Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko says Rus­sia has de­ployed a large num­ber of troops along its bor­der with Ukraine. He al­leged in an in­ter­view pub­lished Sun­day that Rus­sia in­tends to push in­land into Ukraine fol­low­ing a clash in the Black Sea be­tween the coun­tries’ forces.

“We need a strong, uni­fied, un­am­bigu­ous re­ac­tion to Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour,” Poroshenko said in the in­ter­view pub­lished by Ger­many’s Funke Me­dia Group.

Cit­ing the im­mi­nent threat of a Rus­sian of­fen­sive, Poroshenko con­vinced the Ukrainian par­lia­ment to im­ple­ment 30 days of mar­tial law.

Dur­ing the naval clash a week ago, Rus­sian coast guard ves­sels fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval boats and their 24 crew mem­bers. The in­ci­dent has driven ten­sions be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine to their high­est point since Moscow an­nexed Crimea in 2014.

“Moscow is try­ing to cre­ate a land cor­ri­dor from oc­cu­pied Don­bas to oc­cu­pied Crimea by blockad­ing Mar­i­upol and Berdyansk,” Poroshenko said in the in­ter­view.

Rus­sia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the Nov. 25 clash in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Dur­ing that en­gage­ment, Rus­sia closed the Kerch Strait to all traf­fic. Ukrainian of­fi­cials have since ac­cused Rus­sia of deny­ing pas­sage to Ukrainian com­mer­cial traf­fic in and out of Mar­i­upol and Berdyansk.

Mean­while, Poroshenko has promised Or­tho­dox par­ish­ioners that they will be free to choose their af­fil­i­a­tion af­ter the cre­ation of the new au­to­cephalous Ukrainian Or­tho­dox Church.

Amid de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ties with Moscow, Kyiv has been push­ing for the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent Ukrainian Or­tho­dox church, free of con­trol from the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate. That would be a mo­men­tous step, split­ting the world’s largest East­ern Or­tho­dox de­nom­i­na­tion.

The pres­i­dent said Satur­day “the state guar­an­tees the con­sti­tu­tional right to free­dom of re­li­gion, in­clud­ing for those who want to re­main united with the Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church.”

EVGENIY MALOLETKA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Ukrainian bor­der guard checks doc­u­ments of a woman cross­ing the bor­der the Ukraine-Rus­sia bor­der in Milove, east­ern Ukraine, on Sun­day. On a map, Chertkovo, Rus­sia, and Milove, Ukraine, are one vil­lage, but it is split by a bor­der fence built by Rus­sia this year.

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