Published: Mon, December 03, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Merkel: Russia can't block Ukraine's ports

Merkel: Russia can't block Ukraine's ports

In the Nov 25 incident, three Ukrainian naval vessels were heading from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov when they were blocked by the Russian coast guard near the Kerch Strait between Russia's mainland and Crimea.

Olga Smirnova, a member of the Solidarity democratic organization and the organizer of the pickets, believes that the seizure of three Ukrainian military vessels and the capture of sailors signifies a new attempt by the Russian Federation to increase the zone of occupation of Ukrainian territories with weapons. The Ukrainian president claims to have evidence that Russian Federation is planning a ground invasion against his country.

Russian Federation opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian navy ships and their crews on November 25 in an incident which Moscow and Kiev have blamed on each other, triggering a crisis that has raised fears of a wider conflict.

A 2003 Russia-Ukraine agreement designates the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as shared internal waters.

Russia's military has around 80,000 troops, around 1,400 artillery and missile systems, 900 tanks, 2,300 armored vehicles, 500 airplanes, and around 300 helicopters all stationed in the "temporarily occupied" parts of Ukraine known as the Donbas and Crimea, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said the incident in the Kerch Strait was a "provocation" by Ukraine, and has called the ruling party in Kiev a "party of war". But following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, Moscow has asserted greater control over the passage.

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Merkel spoke to reporters Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires after holding a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Merkel's spokesman said Putin agreed that the four countries should hold additional talks.

Ukraine's leader has called on Germany and its allies to boost their naval presence in the Black Sea to deter Russian Federation from further aggression in the region. In intercepted Russian radio communications, the Russian soldiers discuss having pursued and shot at the Ukrainian ships. "The Russians behaved in a way that is deeply inconsistent with worldwide law".

Poroshenko said on Monday that some reservists will be summoned for training as part of martial law.

The incident has driven tensions between Russian Federation and Ukraine to their highest point since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. An unsteady cease-fire has been in place there since 2015.

"Ukraine is taking its own steps in response to the threat of a large-scale Russian invasion", the president said.

Border guards' spokesman Andrei Demchenko has told Ukrainian television Saturday that "the vast majority of (them) couldn't confirm the goal of their trip to Ukraine".

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