An international incident which began Sunday morning in the Sea of Azov between Russia and Ukraine. The British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) broke down the series of events which led to current hostilities:
- In the morning, Ukraine said it had sent two gunboats and a tug from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov
- Ukraine’s navy then said Russia boats had tried to intercept its vessels, ramming the tug
- Russia accused Ukraine of illegally entering its territorial waters
- Russia scrambled fighter jets and helicopters as the Ukrainian vessels approached a bridge over the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov
- The bridge itself was blocked by a tanker
- In the evening, Ukraine said its vessels had been fired on and seized by the Russians. Six Ukrainian crew members were injured
- Russia confirmed it had used the weapons to force the Ukrainian vessels to stop, saying three Ukrainian sailors were injured
- Ukraine held a crisis meeting of the national security and defence [sic] council, asking parliament to back a proposal to declare martial law on Monday
The two countries have maintained a tense relationship in the region surrounding the Black Sea and Sea of Azov since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
The incident has led to Ukrainian forces fighting separatists who have received financial and military support from the Putin led Russian government. However, this is the first time the militaries of the two countries have come into open conflict in recent years.
According to Al Jazeera, “President Petro Poroshenko [Ukraine] has ordered an emergency session of Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s lower house of parliament, to approve the martial law for a period of 60 days. He warned that the step does not mean a declaration of war against Russia.” He would lower the expectation of war when speaking to the National Security and Defense Council, “Ukraine is not planning a war against anyone.”
Steven Rosenberg of BBC News provides the following analysis of the situation:
The use of force by Russia to seize Ukrainian vessels – with casualties – is a major escalation. But you won’t hear Moscow taking the blame. Under President Vladimir Putin, when Russia has used force before, its line of defence [sic] has always been: “We didn’t start it.” That goes for the Russia-Georgia War of 2008, and the appearance of “Little Green Men” (Russian special forces) in Crimea in 2014, which preceded Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula. So, expect Moscow to pin the blame for what happened on Sunday and for whatever happens next on President Petro Poroshenko’s government.
Anger Building In Ukraine
Late Sunday night, approximately 150 protesters gathered outside the Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. According to reports, some individuals threw flares. Photos captured by Reuters captures an embassy officials car being set ablaze.
“We gathered here today to protest against Russians over their actions today, over shooting [sic] of our military. We are very angry. We should have severed all diplomatic relations with this country a long time ago,” Oleksiy Ryabov told Reuters outside the embassy in Kiev.
Reuters also cites Russian media reports stating Russia has just reopened the Kerch Strait to shipping vessels after seizing the Ukrainian naval ships.
The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Monday to address the situation.