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Tensions have risen between the Ukraine and Russia after the Russians seized Ukrainian naval boats in what Oleksandr Turchynov, the Ukrainian Secretary of their Security and Defence Council called the action an act of war. Ukraine to vote on declaring marital law.

Russian Tanker Blocks Kerch Strait


"We heard reports on incident and have concluded that it was an act of war by Russian Federation against Ukraine" Oleksandr Turchynov , Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine said in a statement

The Incident

Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two nations. Ukraine's Berdyansk and Nikopol gunboats, and the Yana Kapa tug, tried to sail from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov. Ukraine says the Russians tried to intercept the ships, ramming the tug. The vessels continued towards the Kerch Strait, but were prevented by a Russian tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait, which blocked the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

Russia scrambled two fighter jets and two helicopters to the area accusing the ships of illegally entering its waters and said the traffic had been suspended for security reasons. The Ukrainian navy later said the boats had been hit and disabled as they tried to leave the area. It said six crew members had been injured.

Russia's FSB later confirmed that one of its patrol boats had used force to seize the three Ukrainian vessels but said only three sailors had been wounded.

Ukraine also said it had informed the Russians of its plan to move its ships through the sea to Mariupol. During a meeting of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as "unprovoked and crazy".

Shared Territorial Waters With Antagonistic Russia Escalating Tensions

Under a 2003 treaty between Moscow and Kiev, the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov are shared territorial waters. Russia however began inspecting all vessels sailing to or from Ukrainian ports. This in its self was antagonistic but the use of force by Russia to seize Ukrainian vessels and leave  casualties is a major escalation. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been quiet on the incident but expect him to blame Ukraine or even others as he did in the Russia-Georgia War of 2008, and Russian special forces landing in Crimea in 2014 and Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Expect a war of words with President Poroshenko's government. 

The timing is not a good one for Russia, ahead of the G-20 meeting in Argentina and US President cosying up to Saudi Arabia over oil prices. The EU earlier showed solidarity by approving the U.K.'s Brexit aggreement. The European Union has already responded and called on Russia to "restore freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait" and urged "all to act with utmost restraint".

Nato said it "fully supports Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters". It said Russia should "ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea".

Ukraine has requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and has called for international action against Moscow. 

Kerch Strait

The Sea of Azoz Significant To Ukraine Trade

The Sea of Azov lies east of Crimea, and south of the Ukrainian regions that have been partially seized by pro-Russian separatists. The two Ukrainian ports on its northern shore,  Berdyansk and Mariupol,  are key to exporting grain and produce such as steel and importing coal.

Earlier this month, the EU warned it would take "targeted measures" to address the issue. The inspections began soon after Ukraine detained a fishing vessel from Crimea in March. Moscow says they are necessary for security reasons, pointing to a potential threat to the bridge from Ukrainian radicals.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions since separatists moved against the Ukrainian government in April 2014. Ukraine and the West have accussed Russia of sending its troops to the region and arming the separatists. Moscow as mentioned earlier denies and blames elesewhere saying simply Russian volunteers are helping the "rebels."

Source: BBC, Reuters

From The Traders Community News Desk

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