What happened and why, Ukraine and Russia's version of events, and the reaction of NATO and the European Union
On 25 November Russian border guards shot at, rammed and captured three Ukrainian ships heading from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.
In this video, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Arsen Avakov, shows how the Russian ship rams one of the vessels, a Ukrainian tugboat.
PLEASE NOTE: The following video contains foul language.
МВС України спецзасобами отримало доступ до відео провокації -тарана російського прикордонного корабля “Дон” українського🇺🇦 судна. Перехоплене відео знято російськими, чутні команди – це піде доказом в міжнародний суд!
Агресія! Гуртуемось та очікуємо реакції дружніх країн! pic.twitter.com/f0e9hFB1BT
— Arsen Avakov (@AvakovArsen) November 25, 2018
The sequence of events are as follows:
• On the morning of 25 November, Russia announced that Ukrainian warships had violated Russian territorial waters. The ships went to the Black Sea and then the Kerch Strait without first submitting an application for the passage of vessels, reported the FSB of Russia.
• The Russian border ship rammed a Ukrainian tugboat which was followed by two warships.
• Russia closed off the strait for civilian ships, and combat aircraft began patrolling the Kerch Strait.
• Ukraine accused Russia of “openly aggressive actions”.
• Ukraine reported the same day that the Russian military had fired upon and captured Ukrainian ships. It was reported that three vessels — artillery boats Berdyansk and Nikopol, as well as the Yany Kapu tugboat — were sent from Odessa to Mariupol and were in international waters.
• Ukraine reported that six Ukrainian soldiers were injured. The crew of the captured ships totaled about 20 people.
• Early in the morning on 26 November, the FSB of Russia reported that three Ukrainian ships were detained and three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded. Help was rendered to the wounded, and a criminal case was instituted based on the fact that the ships of the Ukrainian Navy had violated the state border of the Russian Federation. The detained Ukrainian ships were taken to the port of Kerch.
Ukrainian television channel Gromadskoe is reporting live on the situation.
Only Russia considers the Kerch Strait to be part of its territory. No other country supports this position
The Kerch Strait where the incident occurred connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
A treaty was signed between Russia and Ukraine in 2003, according to which ships under the flags of these two countries enjoy freedom of navigation there.
However, in 2014 after the annexation of the Crimea, Russia declared that the Kerch Strait was now a part of its territorial waters.
The Crimea was annexed by Russia after a change of power occurred in Ukraine. After mass protests, pro-Russian President Yanukovych fled the country. Another consequence of these events was the formation in the east of two self-proclaimed republics – Donetsk and Lugansk, which enjoy the support of Russia, including the military.
Not a single state in the world recognises Crimea as part of Russia, including its closest allies — Belarus, Armenia, and Kazakhstan.
A meeting was held by the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine in Kiev, at which President Petro Poroshenko spoke in favor of imposing martial law.
The issue is expected to be discussed at a meeting by the Verkhovna Rada [the unicameral parliament of Ukraine -ed.] later on 26 November.
Poroshenko promised that martial law would not mean immediate mobilization. According to him, it should not lead to the restriction of the rights and freedom of citizens.
The Ukrainian armed forces were placed on full alert in the early morning hours on 26 November.
A representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, accused Ukraine of provocation:
“Bandits from the high road,” wrote Maria Zakharova on her Facebook page.
“… gangster methods: first provocation, then coercive pressure, and then the charge of aggression.”
NATO and the EU said they were monitoring the situation in the Kerch Strait, and called on the parties to prevent an escalation.
NATO said that the alliance supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and calls on Russia to provide Ukrainian ships unhindered access to the ports of the Sea of Azov.
The EU leadership also called on Russia to restore the freedom of passage for Ukrainian ships along the Kerch Strait, and both sides to act “with maximum restraint”.