Ukraine Par­lia­ment votes to quit Rus­sia friend­ship treaty

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

MINSK: The Ukrainian Par­lia­ment Thurs­day voted to with­draw from a wide-rang­ing treaty on friend­ship with Rus­sia, the lat­est step in es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions be­tween the two neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

The Supreme Rada over­whelm­ingly sup­ported a mo­tion by Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko not to pro­long the treaty when it comes up for re­newal in April. The cam­ou­flage­clad pres­i­dent vis­ited an air base to an­nounce an up­com­ing dis­patch of troops to the Rus­sian bor­der.

The long-sim­mer­ing con­flict be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine that started with Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014 spilled into the open on Nov. 25 when the Rus­sian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval ves­sels and their crews. The sea­men are still in Rus­sian cap­tiv­ity. Ukraine’s for­eign min­is­ter re­it­er­ated his coun­try’s call for the re­lease and safe re­turn of the 24 Ukrainian sailors.

Pavlo Klimkin in a speech at the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe warned that since the Crimean an­nex­a­tion Rus­sia has not pulled back but, on the con­trary, has ex­tended op­er­a­tions into the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

With the Ukraine-Rus­sia con­flict at the top of the OSCE agenda, the EU’s High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fed­er­ica Mogherini Thurs­day also called on Rus­sia to re­lease the Ukrainian ships and sol­diers “with­out de­lay.”

Poroshenko re­sponded to the stand­off by in­tro­duc­ing mar­tial law for 30 days, some­thing Ukraine hadn’t done even after Crimea’s an­nex­a­tion and amid large-scale fight­ing be­tween Ukrainian forces and Rus­sia-backed sep­a­ratists in 2014-15.

As part of mar­tial law, Ukraine has beefed up its forces on the bor­der with Rus­sia, called up re­servists for train­ing and barred en­try to all Rus­sian males aged be­tween 16 and 60.

Poroshenko in an opin­ion piece pub­lished in The New York Times Thurs­day called on the West to re­spond to what he de­scribed as Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sion by im­pos­ing ad­di­tional sanc­tions on the Krem­lin.

“Our com­mon task is not to al­low Rus­sia to spill its ag­gres­sion into the Sea of Azov,” he said.

“While the West is speak­ing, Mr. Putin is act­ing. It is time to re­spond.”

Poroshenko vis­ited a mil­i­tary air base in the city of Zhy­to­myr where Ukraine’s Air As­sault Forces troops were pre­par­ing to leave for the lo­ca­tions on the bor­der with Rus­sia “in or­der to strengthen our de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties and be ready to stop the ag­gres­sor with­out los­ing a sec­ond.”

The Ukrainian Par­lia­ment voted not to pro­long the friend­ship treaty with Rus­sia, which is up for re­newal next April, and adopted a bill that uni­lat­er­ally dou­bles the ex­tent of Ukraine’s ter­ri­to­rial waters to 24 nau­ti­cal miles.

Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties say this will al­low the coast guard and the navy to be more ef­fi­cient in pa­trolling the area to pre­vent mil­i­tary threats and smug­gling. The bill also al­lows Ukrainian bor­der guards to open fire with­out warn­ing on po­ten­tial at­tack­ers. –

Ukrainian para­troop­ers at a cer­e­mony at Oz­erne air base, Zhy­to­myr re­gion, prior to their de­ploy­ment to the coun­try’s east.

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