Ukraine Accuses Russia of Firing on and Seizing Its Naval Ships

November 25, 2018 Updated: November 25, 2018

Ukrainian officials accused Russia’s military of opening fire on and seizing several Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula on Nov. 25 in an apparent escalation of tensions.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for a meeting with his top military and security officials on the night of Nov. 25, Reuters reported.

“Due to extraordinary events, the president convened a military cabinet,” said Poroshenko’s spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, on Twitter, according to a translation.

Earlier on Nov. 25, Russia stopped three Ukrainian ships from entering the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait by putting a cargo ship under a bridge controlled by Russia. The move effectively blocked the ships from passing, the report said.

The country’s navy then said two Ukrainian sailors were hurt during the seizure of its ships. The alleged Russian attack happened as the ships retreated and went back to Odessa, Reuters reported.

“After leaving the 12-mile zone, the Russian Federation’s FSB (security service) opened fire at the flotilla belonging to … the armed forces of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s navy said.

Ukraine’s navy said two of its vessels were struck by Russian gunfire while coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat before seizing them, The Associated Press reported.

Ukraine also alleged one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel, AP reported. “Russian coast guard vessels … carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships,” Kiev’s statement said, adding that the Russian vessel damaged a tugboat’s engine, hull, side railing, and a lifeboat.

Russia was informed in advance of the planned passage under the bridge before Russia blocked it off, Ukraine alleged.

The Berdyansk and the Nikopol gunboats were hit by gunfire and were disabled while trying to leave, the Ukraine Navy told the BBC. Later, Russia scrambled two fighter jets and two helicopters to monitor the ships.

Russia’s Federal Security Service issued a statement on Nov. 25, saying Ukrainian ships violated Russian territorial waters. “Their goal is clear,” an FSB statement said, “to create a conflict situation in the region.”

“There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations … in the Black Sea,” the FSB also told AP. “These materials will soon be made public.”

The Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov, under a 2003 treaty, are designated as shared territorial waters, but reports say Moscow has been asserting greater control over the area since 2015.

It also comes about four years after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine while also attempting to broaden its area of influence around the peninsula. The annexation followed the overthrowing of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich following protests that turned into violent conflict. Fighting in Donbass in southeastern Ukraine has left more than 13,000 people dead.

Russia’s recent actions were a violation of the United Nations’ Charter as well as a violation of international law, said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. “Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region,” the statement from the ministry reads, “and therefore require a clear response from the international community,” AP reported.

“Russian ships have violated our freedom of maritime navigation and unlawfully used force against Ukrainian naval ships,” the ministry also said, according to Reuters.