Ukraine's SBU Confirms Intelligence Officers on Board Vessels Seized Near Crimea

Wednesday, 28 Nov, 2018

As the video of the Ukrainian sailors was aired on Russia's state-run media Tuesday, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that two Ukrainian intelligence officers were among the 24 sailors in detention, and said they were in charge of "the provocation".

Since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014, a bridge has been built across the strait, connecting the Crimean peninsula with Russian Federation.

In response, the Ukrainian government Monday night imposed martial law for one month in parts of the country officials say are vulnerable to possible military action from Russian Federation.

On Tuesday, the country's state security service announced that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russian Federation.

Norbert Roettgen, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, made the statement as Russia's rouble recovered some of its losses from the previous day.

Update: On November 26, hours before the Verkhovna Rada's vote, Poroshenko signed an executive order imposing martial law in Ukraine for 30 days, simultaneously submitting a bill to the parliament for approval.

Crimea's rights ombudswoman says three sailors will be held until January 25 over accusations of crossing into Russian territory illegally.

According to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the Ukrainian military started shelling residential areas of the self-proclaimed DNR, as Ukrainian vessels challenged Russia at the Kerch Strait.

His call came as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine against any "reckless acts" after Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow's seizure of three of its navy vessels.

United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Monday condemned Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian ships as an "outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory" and warned the Kremlin against further escalation.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday (Nov 27) warned of the threat of "full-scale war" and said Russian Federation had sharply increased its military presence on their shared border as tensions escalate between the ex-Soviet neighbours.

However, President Trump has not directly called out Russia's actions. Since 2014, all Allies have condemned Russia's aggressive actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. They attempted to do so by the only possible way to go, through the Kerch Strait.

Russia's acting United Nations ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, accused the Ukrainian Navy of "staging an aggressive provocation", which he claimed was aimed at drumming up public support for Poroshenko ahead of Ukraine's presidential election in March.

The Kerch Strait is the only route between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

It clearly shows that the Russian ship did not change course as it bears down on the Ukrainian tugboat, apparently deliberately ramming the tugboat.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday with a "warning" to Ukraine that naval conflict in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea "is fraught with serious consequences".

US President Donald Trump suggested it was up to European governments to handle the crisis. "This should be the stance of a court", the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters during a conference call.

The hostilities began when Russia blocked two Ukrainian military boats and one tugboat from sailing under a new Russian bridge spanning the Kerch strait, the channel that connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea to the south.

The clash comes as Ukrainian forces are fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.