Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned Ukraine against any “reckless acts” after Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow’s seizure of three of its navy vessels.
The Ukrainian parliament late Monday voted in favor of President Petro Poroshenko’s request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days.
The move came after Russian forces fired on, boarded and captured three of Kiev’s ships on Sunday off the coast of Crimea, sparking the most dangerous crisis between the ex-Soviet neighbors in years.
The incident was the first major confrontation at sea in the long-running conflict pitting Ukraine against Moscow and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.
It has raised fears of a wider escalation — in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014 — and prompted international calls for restraint.
Martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilize citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas.
In a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin expressed “serious concern” over the introduction of martial law, the Kremlin said in a statement.
He said he hoped Berlin could intervene with Ukrainian authorities “to dissuade them from further reckless acts”.
Moscow has accused Kiev of planning Sunday’s confrontation as a provocation aimed at drumming up support for Poroshenko ahead of elections next year and convincing Western governments to impose further sanctions on Russia.
Putin said Kiev’s actions were “clearly taken in view of the election campaign in Ukraine”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that Kiev’s martial law threatened to cause an “escalation of tensions in the conflict region” in the east of the country.
– Sailors to appear in court –
Moscow has so far resisted calls to release the three ships or the 24 sailors it has detained.
Emine Avamilyeva, a lawyer for one of the sailors, told AFP that 21 of them were expected to appear later Tuesday before a court in Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea.
Three others were wounded in the weekend clash and were being treated in a Crimean hospital, the lawyer said.
Moscow accuses them of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings from its border guards, with officials suggesting they could face criminal prosecution.
Sunday’s incident has been playing out on Russian and Ukrainian television screens, with dramatic footage of Russian ships chasing down a Ukrainian tugboat that was trying to pass through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov.
Russian state television late on Monday aired footage of some of the captured sailors being questioned by Moscow’s security services.
One of the sailors is heard saying “the actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocatory character” — parroting the version of events put forward by Russian authorities.
Ukraine’s naval commander, Igor Voronchenko, said the sailors were pressured into giving false evidence.
“I know these sailors, they were always professional. What they are saying now is not true,” he told the Interfax Ukraine news agency. “They (the Russians) could even say that we came from the sky on a spaceship.”
Ukraine has accused Russian border patrol vessels of ramming the tugboat, which was accompanied by two small warships, and of firing on the Ukrainian vessels.
– ‘Predictably anti-Russian’ –
Western governments have rallied behind Kiev in the dispute, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov and of taking military action without justification.
Kiev urged the United States and European Union to impose more sanctions on Russia over the latest incident.
Britain, Canada, France, Germany and others expressed support for Kiev on Monday, with EU President Donald Tusk calling for Russia to return the Ukrainian sailors and ships and “refrain from further provocations”.
Pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia on Tuesday denounced the reaction as “predictably anti-Russian”.
The United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session on the crisis on Monday, where US envoy Nikki Haley called the seizure of the ships an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and slammed “yet another reckless Russian escalation”.
She did not, however, threaten further sanctions on Russia and President Trump suggested it was up to European governments to handle the crisis.
“We don’t like what’s happening and hopefully it will get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They’re working on it too. We’re all working on it together,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Trump and Putin are expected to meet later this week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina.
New testimony adds 2 stunning — and previously unknown — details about the Ukraine extortion
New testimony released Monday from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Ukraine scandal included at least two new stunning details about the quid pro quo scheme at the heart of the matter.
Overall, the transcripts for depositions of Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who were advisers to U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, built on the story of that we already know: that President Donald Trump pushed a shadow foreign policy to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponents, a scheme that involved using his office and military aid as leverage over the country in opposition to the official policy.
Trump blasted for his ‘Endorsement of Doom’ after Sean Spicer loses on ‘Dancing with the Stars’
Team Trump had gone all in urging supporters to vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the game show "Dancing with the Stars."
Votes had been urged by RNC officials and Trump himself had urged his 66 million Twitter followers to vote for Spicer.
Despite the full heft of the Trump campaign, Spicer lost on Monday's show.
Trump deleted his failed tweet urging votes for Spicer -- and instead said it was a "great try" by his former advisor.
Looks like this endorsement was as successful as your last one!
‘He’s misunderstood’: Nikki Haley tells Fox News how Trump is actually a really good listener
Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley defended President Donald Trump during a Monday appearance with Fox News personality Sean Hannity.
Hannity asked the former South Carolina governor if Trump was "misunderstood."
"I do think he’s misunderstood," Haley replied.
"I can tell you, from the first day to the last day that I worked for the president, he always listened, he was always conscious of hearing other voices, allowing people to debate out the issues, and then he made his decision," Haley claimed.
She argued that, "I saw a president that was very thoughtful, looked at all of the issues, made decisions, and it was a pleasure and honor to work with him."